The border region of the United States and Mexico encompasses a vast and diverse array of physical settings and habitats that include wetlands, deserts, rangeland, mountains, and forests, which are unique in terms of the diversity of their water, mineral, and biological resources. The region is interconnected economically, politically, and socially owing to its binational heritage. In 1995, nearly 11 million people lived immediately adjacent to the border. By one account, that population could more than double by 2020.
This rapid population growth and consequent economic development and land-use changes are pushing the limits of environmental sustainability and quality. Infrastructure development has lagged behind the rapid growth of the region, resulting in a shortage of water for municipal, agricultural, and industrial uses. These stressors threaten the quality of life in the region and raise concerns about the interdependence of environmental quality and human health.
To allow for continued economic growth while protecting the area’s natural resources and fostering a high quality of life, the United States and Mexico need an improved understanding of the threats posed by these anthropogenic changes.
Issues of particular concern include (1) contaminants in ground water, surface water, and biota from agricultural, municipal, and industrial activities; (2) airborne pollutants from fossil-fuel combustion and other activities; (3) contaminants from past and present mining activities and mineral deposits; and (4) pathogens, pharmaceuticals, hormones, and other contaminants released in treated and untreated human and animal wastewaters.
Science data in support of environmental health studies in the U.S.-Mexico border region