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Comparative assessment of water quality indices—a case study to evaluate water quality for drinking water supply and irrigation in Northern Mexico

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Water quality indices (WQIs) are numerical measures used by researchers and water managers to communicate water quality status to the public. This study analyzes the official databases from the CONAGUA monitoring network of the main tributary rivers in the middle basin of the San Pedro-Mezquital River in Durango, Mexico, for a 6-year period (2013–2018). We applied three WQIs to 432 data (18 sampling sites, four samples per year, 6 years): Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) WQI, National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) WQI, and Secretariat of Urban Development and Ecology (SEDUE) WQI. The Canadian index proved to be a flexible, appropriate, and rigorous methodology for assessing water quality based on its use. Results classify the water quality in the studied reservoirs as good, while river water was rated for public use, as marginal to very poor. No statistical significant differences in the quality of water between the rainy (June–October) and dry (November–May) seasons were found. However, tendency shows that in the rainy season the water quality was lower, mainly attributed to agricultural runoffs and bank erosion. The main contamination problem was the presence of fecal coliforms in high concentrations, which is associated to the high population density in the area, low sanitation efficiency, and multiple non-point discharges.

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The data used for the determination of water quality in the study area is publicly available at and


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We thank two anonymous reviewers for insightful comments that helped to improve the manuscript.


A.P. Gaytán-Alarcón received a scholarship from CONACYT for her doctoral studies. No other funds, grants, or additional support was received.

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Correspondence to María Teresa Alarcón-Herrera.

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Gaytán-Alarcón, A.P., González-Elizondo, M.S., Sánchez-Ortíz, E. et al. Comparative assessment of water quality indices—a case study to evaluate water quality for drinking water supply and irrigation in Northern Mexico. Environ Monit Assess 194, 588 (2022).

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