Hydrogeologic Constraints on Yucatán's Development

Science  15 Nov 1974:
Vol. 186, Issue 4164, pp. 591-595
DOI: 10.1126/science.186.4164.591


The Republic of Mexico has an ambitious and effective national water program. The Secretaria de Recursos Hidraulicos (SRH), whose director has cabinet rank in the federal government, is one of the most professionally distinguished government agencies of its kind in the Americas. Resources for the Future, Inc., has been assisting the World Bank with a water planning study which the Bank is undertaking jointly with the Mexican government. The study is intended to provide guidelines for the development of government policies and projects designed to bring about the most efficient use of Mexico's water resources. However, to date, their study has not been directed toward the growing problems of the northern Yucatáan Peninsula which are discussed here.

LeGrand (13) suggested that man has inherited a harsh environment in carbonate terranes. In the case of the northern Yucatán Peninsula, the physical environment creates a set of hydrogeologic constraints to future economic and social development. Planning for intermediate and long-range land use on the peninsula must be related directly to the limited and fragile groundwater source. Continued contamination will make future aquifer management a difficult challenge for federal, state, and territorial agencies. We conclude that any strategy for long-range land use in the study area should include establishment of a regional aquifermonitoring network for long-term measurements of key hydrogeologic parameters, including precipitation, evapotranspiration, water table elevations, and water quality. Information from this network would flow into a central facility for storage, interpretation, and analysis. At present the SRH is collecting some of these data. Expansion of the existing program to provide sound information for regional planning will greatly benefit present as well as future generations. If such a program is implemented, it will represent a model for regional planning in other tropical and subtropical karstic terrains