Anthropogenic and climate induced trace element contamination in a water reservoir in northwestern Mexico

Roberto Ochoa-Contreras, Martín Enrique Jara-Marini, Joan Albert Sanchez-Cabeza, Diana María Meza-Figueroa, Libia Hascibe Pérez-Bernal, Ana Carolina Ruiz-Fernández*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Water reservoirs are essential for regional economic development, as populations depend on them for agriculture irrigation, flood control, hydroelectric power generation, water supply for human consumption, and subsistence fishing activities. However, the reservoir environmental quality can be disturbed by enhanced sediment input and trace metal contamination, affecting human health as a consequence of contaminated water and fish consumption. With the purpose to understand the trends and extent of sediment accumulation and trace element contamination in the Oviachic reservoir (OV, northwestern Mexico) since its construction, the temporal variations of sediment accumulation, and As, Cr, Cu, Hg, Ni, Pb, and Zn concentrations, enrichment, and fluxes, were evaluated through the study of two 210Pb-dated sediment cores. We assumed that siltation and trace element contamination were driven by the development of anthropogenic activities in the region within the past ~ 70 years. Elemental concentrations accounted from null to minor enrichment for most elements, but moderate to significant enrichment by Hg. Mercury, As, and Cu fluxes have notably increased since the past decade, most likely because of a combination of anthropogenic and natural processes, including catchment erosion, artisanal gold mining, and recent drought conditions in the region. Arsenic and Hg concentrations may pose deleterious risks to biota in the reservoir, and consequently to humans through fish consumption, for which further biological and toxicological tests are advisable. This study highlights the importance of using sediment dating to assess historical trends of metal contamination and identify possible sources, to support decision-making in programs addressed to reduce environmental and health risks in aquatic ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16895-16912
Number of pages18
JournalEnvironmental Science and Pollution Research
Issue number13
StatePublished - Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by the project grant # 20562 “Accumulation and distribution of metals and metalloids in water, sediments and biota in the Yaqui River Basin, Sonora State,” from Centro de Investigación en Alimentación y Desarrollo, A.C. The scholarship of R. Ochoa-Contreras was provided by the Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología of México. The authors are grateful to Adolfo Americano for the technical assistance during sampling activities and to Germán Ramírez, Carlos Suárez, and León Felipe Álvarez for the data curation and processing.

Funding Information:
Financial support was received from Centro de Investigación en Alimentación y Desarrollo, A.C., under grant agreement # 20562. Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología of México provided the PhD scholarship of R. Ochoa-Contreras.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH, DE part of Springer Nature.


  • Climate variability
  • Pb dating
  • Sediment accumulation rates
  • Trace element contamination
  • Water reservoirs


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