USGS Columbia Environmental Research Center Project: Environmental Health in the U.S. - Mexico Border Region


Statement of Problem
: The border region of the United States and Mexico encompasses a vast and diverse array of physical settings and habitats that include freshwater and marine wetlands, deserts, rangeland, mountains, and forests, which are unique in terms of the diversity of their water, mineral and biological resources. The socio-political culture that has developed in the region is also unique. Almost 12 million people reside within the border region, a ten-fold increase during the past 60 years. The population is predicted to double within the next 20 years. This rapid population growth and consequent economic development and land-use changes are pushing the limits of environmental sustainability and quality. The pace of infrastructure development has lagged behind the rapid growth of the region, resulting in a shortage of water for municipal, agricultural, and industrial uses. These stressors threaten the quality of life in the region and raise concerns about the interactions between environmental quality and human health. To allow continued economic growth and protection of the area¿s natural resources, while maintaining a high quality of life, the United States and Mexico need a clear understanding of the threats that these anthropogenic changes represent to environmental quality, as well as threats to environmental health due to natural conditions.

Objectives: The primary objective of this project is to develop an integrated, web-based, environmental-resource database for display and further analysis within a geographic information system (GIS) framework. This information system will provide the needed data and tools for furthering the understanding of the occurrence and distribution of disease-causing agents in the environment and their specific exposure pathways in water, air, biota, and soil. A desired outcome of this effort will be an enhancement of opportunities for collaborative research efforts with public health agencies and biomedical researchers as a result of the identification of information gaps.
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