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Water Contamination in Akumal Norte

The threat, the plan, and how you can become part of the solution

The Threat

Water quality in Akumal is under threat. Many studies on the quality of ground water, surface water, and seawater have been conducted over the years and are available from Centro Ecol√≥gico de Akumal (CEA) and other science-based institutions.  Among the disturbing results reported are the presence of Ecoli bacteria in Yalku lagoon and Akumal Bay, and increases in microorganisms in Laguna Lagartos. Water contamination threatens human health and all of the species that we share this incredible place with.  

In response to this threat, in January of 2021, the Governor of Quintana Roo inaugurated the  Akumal Wastewater Treatment Plant, a reported investment of $59 million pesos. Unfortunately, funding issues have prevented the Mexican government from following up by installing sewers and related pumping stations in Akumal Pueblo and Akumal (including Akumal Norte) to get the sewage to the treatment facility, so It’s anybody’s guess if and when Akumal will have a functioning sewer system.  

The Pueblo is a major source of water contamination.  It sits about 20 meters above sea level, so gravity directs effluent from septic systems toward the shore through the highly porous karst.  This is likely the primary source of contamination in both Laguna Lagartos and Yalku, but we have no control and little influence over it.

But buildings in North Akumal are also substantial contributors to the problem.  Aging septic systems, marginal septic systems, and inadequate effluent discharge are significant contributors to the contamination problem, and these are all issues we can control if owners are committed to doing so.

The Plan

Vecinos has formed a committee reporting to the Board to determine what we can do to minimize the impact of ground and surface water contamination. Here is the action plan:

  1. Assess the current contamination levels in surface and groundwater through sampling and analysis and identify hot spots. We don’t have groundwater testing wells, so in the near term, the focus will be on Laguna Lagartos, Yalku Lagoon, North Akumal mangroves, Akumal Bay, and Half Moon Bay.

  2. Establish an ongoing sampling and analysis program to monitor changes over time.  Ideally, this would include testing wells at specific locations to monitor groundwater as well as surface water. This element of the plan is currently unfunded, so Vecinos will work to obtain funding through our budgeting process and fundraising specifically for this purpose.

  3. Work with owners in Akumal Norte to identify systems needing upgrades and improve aging septic systems to improve water quality and minimize further environmental damage.

  4. Develop and disseminate information regarding the various types of septic systems, estimated costs, including qualified engineers and contractors for design and installation.  

How You Can Help

Please consider the system that you are currently using. If it needs an upgrade, Vecinos is here to help you explore the options and find the solution that meets your needs.  

Systems available for managing waste water include storage and pump systems with sealed vaults, and treatment systems, including:

  • Chambered concrete septic tank with leach field or injection well
  • Above ground multi-chambered aerobic septic system (based on rotoplas units)
  • Anaerobic biodigesters

Local vendors are available to evaluate your specific situation and do the installation work.  

Examples in Akumal Norte

We encourage owners to post on the Community Forum on Environmental Issues on the Vecinos website with questions, ideas, and comments, and especially to share solutions they have implemented on their properties. Here are a few:

    Concrete septic tank with injection well

    Mi Casa del Mar (system beneath parking lot)

    Anaerobic Digester (biodigester) 

    Community Center Building (Guardia Nacional)

    Plastic (rotoplas) aerobic septic system above or below ground

    Casa Mariposa

    Plastic (rotoplas) 3 tank system with final settling vault for pump out 


    Effluent System

    Constructed Wetlands (garden)

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