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Pollutants in aquifers may threaten future of Mexico's fast-growing 'Riviera Maya'

li> A halt to injections of treated sewage into saltwater below the freshwater aquifer;
  • Measures to avoid aquifer contamination from hard surface runoff;
  • An integrated approach to coastal zone management; and
  • Protection of all remaining mangroves, which buffer coastal areas from pollution.

    They warn too that a combination of sea-level rise and over-extraction of freshwater contributes to saltwater intrusion into the aquifers, posing a threat to the region's freshwater quality and availability.

    Without integrated approaches to protecting and managing the aquifer, "the tourism-based economy of the Maya Riviera region will not be sustainable over the medium to long term," the researchers conclude.

    They deployed two types of passive sampling devices in five locations at depths of 1.5 to 10.5 meters to sample groundwater flowing under the area at a rate of 0.5 to 2.5 km per day to measure concentrations of contaminants and determine possible sources. The freshwater in these aquifers forms a distinct lens on top of intruding salt water. The two water layers meet and mix in these flooded cave systems, which extend 8 to 12 km inland.

    The area's highly permeable geology, characterized by remarkable sinkholes offering access to the groundwater cave systems, makes the peninsula very susceptible to contamination.

    "Diving down a sinkhole into these flooded cave systems was a truly unique experience - and slightly terrifying for someone diving in a cave for the first time," says Ms. van Lavieren, a programme officer at UNU-INWEH and trained rescue diver. "It is hard to imagine the actual size and shape of these cave systems without actually being in them. Thankfully, we were helped by experienced divers in the area to deploy and collect the passive samplers."


  • Contact: Terry Collins
    United Nations University

    Page: 1 2 3

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