WASTEWATER TREATMENT

Mexico 2018 | GREEN ECONOMY | B2B

Given the severe shortage of appropriate environmental infrastructure in the country, companies see great opportunities in the Mexican market.

Federico Casares
FEDERICO CASARES
Business Development & Institutional Affairs Director
Veolia México
Jordi Valls
JORDI VALLS
CEO
Suez Mexico

How important is the Mexican market for your company?

FEDERICO CASARES Mexico has the 15th largest nominal GDP in the world and given its potential for economic growth, it is an attractive market for Veolia. The lack of appropriate environmental infrastructure is another aspect that makes Mexico an attractive country for us. Despite Mexico's progress in supplying drinking water, there are significant drawbacks in the water supply. Regarding urban waste, only 78% of the annual 100 million tons of waste is disposed of in landfills, representing a large amount that could be separated, recycled, valorized, and finally disposed, using Veolia's expertise and technology under the Circular Economy approach. The country's innovative model for business development and a good environment for foreign investment make it a great option for investors. This combination of factors has made Mexico a high-priority country for Veolia in terms of investment.

JORDI VALLS In Mexico, we work in the municipal market, more specifically on building and construction operations with wastewater plants, desalination plants, and water production plants. At the same time, we work together with GE Water & Process Technologies, which the company acquired a year ago. This company is focused on the industrial sector, and for us it is important to expand the introduction of Suez and this technology to the industrial sector. We are currently focused on three main questions; one is advanced solutions that strive to provide technologies and service to water companies in order to improve the commercial and physical efficiency and all services relating to the improvement of water services. The other two are smart agriculture and waste. One of our targets in Latin America is to start a waste business, not only in Mexico but all of LATAM.

Mexico is the world's largest consumer of bottled water. What obstacles does the country face for the situation to change in the medium-term?

FC Water purification is a major challenge due to three main reasons. First, groundwater reserves are in many cases contaminated or non-potable due to inadequate wastewater treatment, leading to higher costs for purification. Second, water treatment plants operated by municipal, state, or federal governments have not modernized due to limited resources and technical expertise. Third, since the public is used to buying bottled water due to the deficiencies in the purification processes, it is hard to convince the public to drink the tap water again. Nonetheless, our greatest area of growth is to tackle these issues and gradually to achieve that tap water could be used as drinking water reducing the need to consume bottled water.

How do you assess the sustainability of Mexican cities' utilities networks compared to other Latin American cities?

JV Here, there are certain trends regarding the reuse of water. We are working and operating the management of the San Luis Potosí wastewater plant, and the regulator is currently using the wastewater to provide water to the agricultural sector and cool energy plants. The second is trying to improve water efficiency. It is not enough to invest in assets if we do not improve the maintenance of the network in order to reduce leaks. The third aspect is focused on the north of Mexico. It is important in the case of Mexico to increase its autonomy in the north in order to get water as a raw material and not depend on the US.

Veolia grew around 22% in Latin America. How was Mexico's performance within this context?

FC Our high level of growth was possible due to a new business model where Veolia went from being a company focused mainly on the municipal or cities sector, to an industrial sector participation. Though Mexico did not reach the 22% regional rate, we have increased investment by 40% for 2018.

What are your short-term priorities for the coming year?

JV For me, the first priority is to become an important player in desalination in Mexico. The second is to be an important player in the re-use of water, water efficiency, and smart agriculture. The last is developing in this business to become a top player in the industrial sector.