Climate change could put Yucatán’s water supply in jeopardy

Cenote X'Canché near Ek Balam. Photography: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Cenote X’Canché near Ek Balam. Photography: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Scientists in Yucatán warn that within a couple of decades, saltwater could contaminate the drinking water supply of the entire peninsula. 

Because the water basin in much of Yucatán is so close to the surface, rising sea levels would be disastrous.

The problem has already begun to manifest in some areas of the Riviera Maya, where water treatment plants have been set up to help deal with the issue. 

Yucatán does not have any large rivers or lakes and depends almost entirely on underground water reservoirs. 

“Rising sea levels combined with increased demand on the water table could result in serious problems for the region,” said researcher Rosa María Leal Bautista.

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Water in Yucatán has always been plentiful thanks to the constant refilling of the water table during the rainy season. However, scientists warn that politicians, farmers, land developers and ordinary citizens must start addressing water availability issues more seriously.

Some communities in Yucatán are facing serious water shortages already, not because of a lack of water, but rather because of a lack of proper infrastructure. 

Local water cooperatives dig a well, often located at the center of town, and entrust a “water treasurer” to operate the electric pump. However, problems arise when water demands exceed pump capacity.

Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway.