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Working together to protect our water

Submitted by: Alejandro Muñoz, M.Sc., Osa Healthy Rivers Collaborator

In a new activity carried out under the Osa Healthy Rivers framework, six representatives of communities located throughout the length of the Peninsula got together at Piro Research Station to learn about monitoring the physicochemical and biological conditions of the rivers.

RSO-Wkshp4This workshop, which took place from Friday, February 27 to Saturday, February 28, had the participation of representatives from ASADA (Administrative Associations for Aqueducts and Sewers) and the La Palma school, ASADA representatives from Sándalo, and officials from the sea turtle monitoring program LAST (Latin American Sea Turtles), who are based in Playa Blanca and form part of the network of turtle protection promoted by the organization WIDECAST.

RSO-Wkshp1The workshop was facilitated by the Osa Healthy Rivers team: Pilar Bernal (Environmental Education Program Coordinator), Erin Engbeck (Aquatic Field Research Assistant), and Jim Palmer (Science and Education Program Director), accompanied by Alejandro Muñoz, a Costa Rican biologist with experience with biomonitoring studies.

During the first day of the workshop, participants received theoretical and practical training on the analysis of physicochemical characteristics of water and measuring the microbiological contamination through coliform bacteria. The workshop participants had the opportunity to put this knowledge in practice by analyzing the quality of the water in Piro River, which crosses the station. During the afternoon, Juan Carlos Cruz, Feline Program Coordinator, shared his experiences monitoring mammals at the station, through the use of camera traps.

RSO-Wkshp5The second day of the workshop was dedicated to biological monitoring of the water quality of the rivers. After an informational session in the laboratory, participants were directed again to Piro River to use kick nets, D nets, sieves, and other implements used by limnologists, the scientists who study of bodies of fresh water, to capture the organisms that live in the rivers. After working collaboratively, over 25 different types of aquatic invertebrates were observed, including various types of crayfish, prawns, dragonflies, stoneflies, caddisflies, and mayflies. The diversity represented by these organisms allowed participants to conclude that Piro River’s water quality is “excellent,” by using the biotic index BMWP-CR, which is a metric used to measure the water quality in Costa Rican rivers based on the presence or absence of different types of aquatic macroinvertebrates.

RSO-Wkshp7The most important lessons of the activity, however, arose from the reflections generated by the interaction between the workshop participants. The representatives of the different ASADAs had the opportunity to compare their experiences, and explained to the other participantes the great  challenges that communities face managing their water sources and assuring an adequate and constant supply of drinking water to their end users.  Together we learned how the management of water resources depends on many people and entities working together: the local aqueduct administrators; the end users who receive the water, who are generally found  spread across many different towns; the institutions that accompany and supervise the ASADAs like the Institute of Aqueducts and Sewers (AyA) and the municipalities. The workshop participants concluded that it’s important that neighboring ASADAs communicate and share experiences in order to work as a team and support each other.

The Osa Healthy Rivers program in its first stage has been developed through interaction with schools and their respective teachers, and this workshop has shown us that it’s important to coordinate monitoring efforts as well with the ASADAs, in order to promote more integrated monitoring and management of Osa’s rivers. In addition, this will allow communication and exchange of experiences between the teams that manage water in the different communities throughout the Peninsula.