Social-Hydrological Risk in the Mexico City Basin


SESYNC has selected this case study as an exemplary S-E synthesis case study.

This case is intended for upper-level undergraduate and graduate students. It is designed to be implemented in approximately 8 sessions, each 2 hours. A shorter version of the case is also possible, and the last section of the Teaching Notes makes suggestions in this regard. While no prior social-ecological theory or conceptual background is needed, the case may be most useful when integrated into a course addressing human-environment interactions, social-ecological concepts (e.g., resilience, adaptation, complexity), or sustainability science more broadly. The case uses the issue of water scarcity and flooding in Mexico City as an entry point into understanding the interaction of biophysical processes, path dependencies in the built environment, conflicting stakeholder perspectives and influences in system dynamics, and tradeoffs in vulnerability interventions. The case is intended to introduce students to some practical skills and approaches for complex system analysis (e.g., system mapping, stakeholder analysis, interviewing, agent based modeling) as well as insights into the complexity of addressing vulnerability and risk in large urban contexts. No prior knowledge on Mexico City or Mexico is needed. Nevertheless, if the case is adopted in a classroom with Spanish-speaking students, there is a significant potential to use the case for a more in-depth and empirically accurate evaluation of risk and vulnerability in the city by encouraging students to look at policy documents and data available online from Mexican agencies and sources.

Hallie Eakin
Ana Elena Escalante
Elizabeth Tellman
Lakshmi Charli-Joseph
Course/Class Size
Graduate seminar in sustainability science (Adaptation, Resilience, Transformation)