Sustainable Land Use Requires Attention to Ecological Signals

William L. Halvorson*, Alejandro E. Castellanos, Joaquin Murrieta-Saldivar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


This case study details the difficulties of landscape management, highlighting the challenges inherent in managing natural resources when multiple agencies are involved, when the land users have no incentive for conservation, and when government agencies have too few resources for effective management. Pumping of groundwater from the aquifer of La Costa de Hermosillo in the state of Sonora, Mexico, began in 1945 and developed so quickly that by the late 1950s salinity intrusion from the Gulf of California was occurring in the wells. In the 1970s, the irrigatable land in La Costa peaked at 132,516 ha and the extracted volume of water from the aquifer peaked at around 1.14 billion cubic meters annually. By the 1980s, 105 wells of the total of 498 were contaminated with seawater and, therefore, identified for closure. At present La Costa de Hermosillo still represents 15% of the total harvested land, 16% of the total annual production, and 23% of the gross agricultural production of the state of Sonora. However, there are approximately 80,000 ha of abandoned fields due to salt water intension, lack of water and/or lack of credit available to individual farmers. This unstable situation resulted from the interplay of water management policies and practices, and farm-land policies and practices. While government agencies have been able to enforce better water use for agricultural production, there remains a significant area that requires restoration from its degraded state. For this piece of the ecosystem management puzzle, government agencies have thus far been unable to affect a solution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)551-558
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Management
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2003


  • Groundwater
  • Irrigation
  • Mexico
  • Restoration
  • Salinization
  • Sonora
  • Sustainable agricultures
  • Water management


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