The San Juan Bay Estuary Program (ESTUARIO) is a great partner of the EarthEcho Water Challenge. They are a non-profit organization that works towards the protection, preservation, and restoration of the quality of the waters of the ecosystem in the estuary as a sustainable axis of social and economic development. The municipalities that the Program works directly with are Bayamón, Carolina, Cataño, Guaynabo, Loíza, San Juan, Toa Baja, and Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico. The Estuary Program originated through the United States Clean Water Act, Section 320, which created the National Estuary Program (NEP), administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The estuarine basin encompasses streams, rivers, beaches, mangrove swamps, and wetlands. Estuaries are in coastal areas where the salt water from the ocean mixes with the freshwater of rivers, lakes, and rains. The importance of estuaries are the unique ecosystem that shelters great biodiversity, from migratory birds to mammals like the manatee.

Every year the world faces many environmental challenges and disasters due to climate change and contamination. People are confronted with the task of protecting and safeguarding life in different ecosystems. That is why monitoring water quality is a priority, as it becomes certain that the protection of water is essential in the mitigation of climate change. The monitoring process can be done through physical and chemical analysis that can indicate different contaminants that are affecting a particular body of water and later, identify the source and mitigate the damage caused. Since 2009, the San Juan Bay Estuary Program has been participating in Puerto Rico Water Quality Day, where more than 10,000 citizens have taken part in such events and have monitored stations which are then added to EarthEcho’s Water Quality Challenge Database.

Water Quality Day is the largest participatory science event in Puerto Rico. The purpose of this event is to motivate citizens to protect the water through simple water quality tests that can be done in rivers, lakes, estuaries, and the sea, among others. It aims to promote awareness of the importance of keeping our bodies of water in good condition. This event is coordinated by the San Juan Bay Estuary Program in collaboration with state and federal agencies, private and environmental organizations, and the volunteer community.

The San Juan Bay Estuary Program provides all the materials that the water monitoring requires and prepares the volunteers that want to participate through workshops. This event is voluntary, therefore, is free of charge and the public interested will receive all the tools necessary to have a successful Water Monitoring Day. The parameters analyzed were both physical and chemical. The physical parameters were the following: turbidity, temperature, the color of the water, odor, presence of organic material, and proximity to places that could potentially contaminate the body of water like industries, agriculture, and residency, among others. The chemical parameters are the following: Dissolved oxygen, pH, Nitrate, Phosphate, and E. Coli that were measured with the bacteriological kit.

This year the Estuary celebrated its fifteenth edition and both virtual and in-person workshops in different regions of Puerto Rico. Due to the fifteenth edition, a new logo was created, and the name Water Quality Monitoring Day was changed to Water Quality Day to concentrate on the educational aspect of this event. Around the Island 928 citizens participated and 184 bodies of water were monitored. This was achieved by holding workshops throughout the Island and distributing the materials necessary to conduct the monitoring process the same day as the workshop; the effectiveness of this strategy helped save time for the volunteers.

EarthEcho International would like to thank our partners in Puerto Rico and the local community for their continuous efforts to protect their estuaries. EarthEcho looks forward to continued collaboration with San Juan Bay Estuary as we mobilize young people and community members to participate in the EarthEcho Water Challenge. We are deeply grateful for this partnership in building a model of intergenerational support in implementing Water Action Projects.