On April 14, 2018, the San Juan Bay Estuary Program celebrated the 10th annual Puerto Rico Water Quality Monitoring Day, the largest citizen science water quality monitoring event in Puerto Rico. People of all ages and backgrounds took on the role of citizen scientists, with over 1,000 volunteers joining together with their schools, universities, organizations, workplaces, or friends and family to gather data on the quality of the bodies of water of Puerto Rico. Participants representing around 90 groups and organizations adopted approximately 215 monitoring stations across the island. Some groups monitored beaches, streams, lagoons, rivers and other bodies of water close to their homes, schools or workplaces, while others traveled from their communities to monitor multiple sites or reach bodies of water of interest or concern. Several groups also took advantage of the day to conduct beach cleanups, maintain trails and hold educational talks and other environmental activities. The San Juan Bay Estuary Program coordinated 9 additional stations across the island which were open to the public and facilitated either by Estuary personnel or partner organizations.
This year was marked by an increase in public concern for water quality as the island, its ecosystems and infrastructure continue to recover from the effects of hurricane María in September 2017. In response to this public concern, the San Juan Bay Estuary Program carried out enterococcus (a fecal contamination indicator) sampling days beforehand in 4 sites to supplement the kits to be used around the island. The morning of April 14th began with a press conference and boat trip through the San José Lagoon in which the San Juan Bay Estuary Program received representatives from state government agencies as well as the Environmental Protection Agency to take a water quality sample, kick off the event, and highlight the importance of water quality and citizen involvement.
The massive citizen science mobilization which occurred on April 14, 2018 was only possible due to the hard work and support of partner organizations and citizens who prepared for the event in the months and weeks before. From the donation of water quality monitoring kits by EarthEcho International to the organizations which mobilized volunteers in their areas of the island, trained group leaders, and facilitated stations, these collaborations made it possible for a total of 37 municipalities to be represented, including the island municipalities of Vieques and Culebra. The data gathered on this day is being shared through the global EarthEcho Water Challenge platform, which will allow participants to view data from across the island as well as other locations worldwide. The 10th annual Puerto Rico Water Quality Monitoring Day represents a milestone in the gathering of post-hurricane citizen water quality data as well as in raising awareness of the importance of water quality among thousands of residents and visitors to Puerto Rico.
Editor’s Note: EarthEcho International is proud to partner with and support the work of the San Juan Bay Estuary Program. To learn more visit www.estuario.org.