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Chemical constraints of groundwater management in the Yucatan peninsula, Mexico

January 1, 1981

Two critical objectives of water management in the Yucatan are: (1) to develop regional groundwater supplies for an expanding population and tourism based on the Mayan archeological sites and excellent beaches; and (2) to control groundwater pollution in a chemically sensitive system made vulnerable by geologic conditions.

The Yucatan peninsula is a coastal plain underlain by permeable limestone and has an annual rainfall of more than 1000 mm. Such a setting should provide abundant supplies of water; however, factors of climate and hydrogeology have combined to form a hydrologic system with chemical boundaries that decrease the amount of available fresh water.

Management of water resources has long had a major influence on the cultural and economic development of the Yucatan. The Mayan culture of the northern Yucatan developed by extensive use of groundwater. The religion was water-oriented and the Mayan priests prayed to Chac, the water god, for assistance in water management primarily to decrease the severity of droughts. The Spaniards arrived in 1517 and augmented the supplies by digging wells, which remained the common practice for more than 300 years. Many wells now have been abandoned because of serious problems of pollution resulting from the use of a sewage disposal well adjacent to each supply well.

The modern phase of water management began in 1959 when the Secretaría de Recursos Hidráulicos (S.R.H.) was charged with the responsibility for both scientific investigations and development programmes for water-supply and sewage-disposal systems for cities, villages and islands.

Citation Information

Publication Year 1981
Title Chemical constraints of groundwater management in the Yucatan peninsula, Mexico
DOI 10.1016/0022-1694(81)90121-9
Authors W. Back, J.M. Lesser
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Hydrology
Series Number
Index ID 70012124
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization