Wastewater treatment strategies and runoff influence concentrations of Enterococcus and fecal coliforms in coastal waters. Disease due to these pathogens can increase due to increased runoff, river discharges, precipitation, and poor wastewater treatments and sanitation processes. The work will examine whether there are spatiotemporal patterns of water quality indicators and environmental factors that help explain patterns of public health threats. We are examining various environmental indices over large geographic scales, including air and sea temperatures, sea level fluctuations, the concentration of chlorophyll-a in coastal waters as an indicator of nutrient inputs by runoff, and disease occurrence per age group in several coastal communities in the Caribbean Sea and in Mexico to better understand factors that lead to increased disease incidence. The study can help design new strategies to better handle wastewater and to minimize exposure to diseases.
The approach will be to work with public health and local natural scientists to conduct a joint study of public health records and of historical variations of sea surface temperature, chlorophyll-a concentration, turbidity, precipitation, and air temperature, and how these may influence water quality in the northwest coastal region of the State of Yucatán, México, and in the city of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Remote sensing satellite data (e.g. Sea surface temperature, chlorophyll-a estimates, etc.) will be combined with field observations collected by local researchers over the past 15-20 years to build time series to assess relations between these various environmental and water quality variables and disease.