Changes in the Vegetation Cover and Quality of Aquifers in the Drylands of Mexico: Trends in an Urbanized Complex of Three Socio-Ecological Systems Within the Chihuahuan Desert


The increase in the change of land use in many areas has resulted in an excessive extraction of groundwater, often in volumes that exceed the total recharge in the underlying aquifers. These are expected to be accentuated by climate change. Monitoring and regulating aquifers is a challenging task, especially in developing countries where data are scarce. Over an 11-year interval, the water level (WL) and water quality in wells of three contiguous aquifers in Northern Mexico were measured. An actual average WL drop rate of 2.012 m year−1 rendered unsustainable considering that the area receives 0.35 m year−1 and negligible horizontal flows. Agricultural land use increased fivefold in the last few years at the expense of rangeland, increasing 11.7–76.2% in the three aquifers, and producing a water demand threefold the aquifer recharge. The permanent presence of As and F above guidelines in several wells makes communities vulnerable to ingestion toxicity. The results of this study stress the inability of these aquifers to supply additional water to a large city nearby and the need of immediate corrective actions, e.g., promoting water-efficient irrigation, artificial aquifer recharge, and an efficient and sustained management policy.


Geography, Geology, and Planning

Document Type




As–F co-occurrence, Contamination, Geogenic and anthropogenic, Loss and gain of vegetation cover, Socio-ecological systems, Water level

Publication Date


Journal Title

Springer Climate