Finding a Drop to Drink in Guadalajara

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Student Research Reports, Summer 2018

Water hyacinth fill the mouth of the Rio Lerma where it meets Lake Chapala, the main water source for Mexico’s 2nd largest metropolitan area named Guadalajara. (Photo by Francesca Rubino.)
Water hyacinth fill the mouth of the Rio Lerma where it meets Lake Chapala, the main water source for Mexico’s 2nd largest metropolitan area named Guadalajara. (Photo by Francesca Rubino.)

Finding a Drop to Drink in Guadalajara
By Francesca Rubino

The purpose of this preliminary investigation was to understand issues concerning water quality in Guadalajara, Mexico and relationship between water, the public, and water hyacinth. The project consisted of two parts: (1) a geospatial analysis utilizing remote sensing to track bioremediation of heavy metals and agricultural outputs by water hyacinth and (2) a pilot study on the copper and coliform bacteria levels in the drinking water. My prior field research experience in Costa Rica, New York, and South Dakota and my studies at UC Berkeley in global health and the environment helped inform my research design. To address the first goal I collected ground truthing data on presence/absence of hyacinth in Lake Chapala which I will use in conjunction with satellite images and historical pollution data to estimate the bioremediation effects of hyacinth in the water supply. For the second objective I collected data on copper levels, coliform, E. coli, temperature, pH, alkalinity, conductivity, chlorine residual, iron, and hardness to evaluate water quality. The results of the first project could help inform management strategies in the lake. If the hyacinth is found to offer a public health service or is found to contain many dangerous pollutants, it may be wise to reconsider the eradication of the plant or the way the government disposes of it (current practices include burning, composting, and dumping). The second project will serve as the first independent study of Guadalajara’s water quality and can help inform future work in the region to improve water quality. Data from this project will help future scientists determine what chemicals in the water need to be better studied, where the water from each region of the city is supplied, and the corrosivity levels in the water supply. Furthermore, independent studies on the water quality in the region are necessary given the lack of public confidence in the water company following years of scandal. While this was only a pilot study, it was evident from this research that future work on improving water quality in Guadalajara will need to address issues concerning the intermittent supply and city planning as well as public perception of drinking water.

This is not snow. Heavy pollution flows from the metropolitan zone of Guadalajara into the Rio Santiago, considered Mexico’s most contaminated waterway. The foam seems to pile up at least 25 cm. The water eventually flows out to the Pacific Ocean, but first it will pass through towns downstream where it will serve as the drinking water supply for other communities. (Photo by Francesca Rubino.)
This is not snow. Heavy pollution flows from the metropolitan zone of Guadalajara into the Rio Santiago, considered Mexico’s most contaminated waterway. The foam seems to pile up at least 25 cm. The water eventually flows out to the Pacific Ocean, but first it will pass through towns downstream where it will serve as the drinking water supply for other communities. (Photo by Francesca Rubino.)
This is not snow. Heavy pollution flows from the metropolitan zone of Guadalajara into the Rio Santiago, considered Mexico’s most contaminated waterway. The foam seems to pile up at least 25 cm. The water eventually flows out to the Pacific Ocean, but first it will pass through towns downstream where it will serve as the drinking water supply for other communities. (Photo by Francesca Rubino.)

 

A family welcomes us to test their water supply. (Photo by Yahaira Corona.)
A family welcomes us to test their water supply. (Photo by Yahaira Corona.)

Yahaira interviews a resident on potable water usage. In the background rooftop tinacos are visible, prepared for the next time water supply suddenly stops. (Photo by Francesca Rubino.)
Yahaira interviews a resident on potable water usage. In the background rooftop tinacos are visible, prepared for the next time water supply suddenly stops. (Photo by Francesca Rubino.) 

 A common sight. Water supplied to homes is often yellow, brown, or red. Residents are very concerned about using colored of water, and describe a lack of trust in the safety of drinking such water. (Photo by Francesca Rubino.)
 A common sight. Water supplied to homes is often yellow, brown, or red. Residents are very concerned about using colored of water, and describe a lack of trust in the safety of drinking such water. (Photo by Francesca Rubino.)
 A common sight. Water supplied to homes is often yellow, brown, or red. Residents are very concerned about using colored of water, and describe a lack of trust in the safety of drinking such water. (Photo by Francesca Rubino.)
A common sight. Water supplied to homes is often yellow, brown, or red. Residents are very concerned about using colored of water, and describe a lack of trust in the safety of drinking such water. (Photo by Francesca Rubino.)

Looking at the future. Children play in a city fountain on a Sunday morning. (Photo by Francesca Rubino.)
Looking at the future. Children play in a city fountain on a Sunday morning. (Photo by Francesca Rubino.)

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