April 22 (Reuters) - Unusually low rainfall around Mexico City has left aquifers and reservoirs depleted, leaving some residents without tap water and reverting to older ways of distributing water - transporting containers on donkeys' backs.
The Mexican capital, situated in a high-altitude valley, relies mostly on water pumped from its underground aquifers and reservoirs dozens of miles away to meet water demand in the wider metropolitan area, home to more than 20 million people.
But reservoirs in the Cutzamala System, which provide one-quarter of the capital's water, are at 49% capacity this year, well below average, according to the water regulator.
As water levels drop, authorities have responded by reducing the flow from the reservoirs, disrupting tap water supplies.
"Because we live on the hill, there is no drinking water," explained Karina Ortega, a 29-year-old mother who makes a living delivering water to her neighbors using donkeys in Mexico City's Xochimilco neighborhood.
Piped water was only good for washing clothes and bathing, she said.
"The water that we get on the donkeys, that's used for food because it is cleaner. But we do struggle a lot with this," she added, as she filled up jerrycans with water and strapped them to her donkeys.
Addressing reporters the day before Earth Day, Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said she expected the drought to continue to affect water supplies and warned there could also be an increased danger of wildfires.
Climate change could make the situation worse. Researchers have estimated natural water availability for the city could fall by 10-17% by 2050 as temperatures rise.
Millions already suffer from intermittent supply.
"Right now, it is difficult to bring water up here. What I brought right now, that is for the whole day. Tomorrow I'll take another trip," said Lourdes Leon Martinez, a 38-year-old cleaner and single mother of five children.
(Reporting by Carlos Carrillo and Carlos Jasso, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien and Alistair Bell)
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