2016 NGWA Groundwater Summit

Water Quality Impacts of Tourism in Quintana Roo, Mexico

Monday, April 25, 2016: 5:10 p.m.
Confluence Ballroom B (The Westin Denver Downtown)
Katelyn Kane, MS geology student , Geology, Masters Student, Sycamore, IL, United States

The Yucatan Peninsula is the world’s largest connected karst cave system. The highly fractured limestone and scarce soil allows precipitation to rapidly infiltrate the groundwater system identified as the Yucatan Aquifer. The geology of the area also prevents the accumulation of surface water; as such groundwater is the only source of fresh water on the peninsula. The shallow Yucatan Aquifer allows contaminants to easily migrate into the groundwater.

The state of Quintana Roo, Mexico on the Yucatan Peninsula is economically dependent on the tourism industry. This study focuses on an assessment of ten locations where direct access to the groundwater is available.  Water samples are collected and tested for contaminants thought to be attributable to tourism. The goal of the study is to determine the main threats to public health.

The sites are tested for environmental constituents along with nutrients and various metals concentrations. In laboratory Total Coliform and E.coli fecal bacteria are tested for as a most probable number method and antibiotic presence/ absence tests are performed. The oxygen and hydrogen isotope values were also analyzed. DNA samples from each site were sent out for sequencing.  Samples were collected February, April, and June shortly after optimal times of tourist occupancy. Currently the plan is to take one last sample collection during the low tourist season of October. Initial results have shown high amounts of Total Coliform and E.coli fecal bacteria. The nutrient levels and metals are in low concentrations. The antibiotic tests thus far have produced negative results. The current findings of this study suggest that the primary contaminants are the bacteria.

Katelyn Kane, MS geology student, Geology, Masters Student, Sycamore, IL, United States
Katelyn Kane completed her Bachelors of Science Geology Degree with an emphasis in Hydrology from University of Wisconsin Oshkosh in 2014. She started her Geology Master’s program at Northern Illinois University in fall 2014. Her thesis work focuses on water quality in the karstic aquifer of the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. Ms. Kane works as a Teaching Assistant for the Environmental Field School and introductory level geology and paleontology laboratory classes for Northern Illinois University. She is currently the president of Sigma Gama Epsilon Northern Illinois University chapter where she is dedicated to expanding the knowledge of natural sciences to others.