Water & Environment

22 | November | 2013

RALCEA: Control and prevention of hydro events and water pollution

With the presence of three Latin American countries the training course "Tools for the Management of Water Resources" took place in Guatemala. The meeting sought to build capacities for monitoring and controlling water resources that develop the management of river water basins. It also highlighted the exchange of successful experiences that support management tools for decision making.

Within the frame of the RALCEA program, the Colombian, Mexican  and Chilean centers  members of the Red Latino Americana de Centros de Excelencia en Aguas (Latin American Network of Centers of Excellence in Water) met in Ciudad de Guatemala to teach the course "Water of the Future: Tools for the Management of Water Resources". The project was financed and administered by the European Commission and its overall coordination is in charge of the Joint Research Centre (JRC). Fundación Chile assumed the responsibility of coordinating the main activities related to Water Quality and Sanitation in Latin America.

The purpose of the meeting was to strengthen technical capabilities for monitoring and controlling water resources. It also encouraged the creation of synergies and the exchange of successful experiences that support management tools for decision making.

The event was coordinated by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources of Guatemala (MARN), and with the participation of Universidad Nacional de Colombia, the Centro de Investigación Científica y de Educación Superior de Ensenada de México (CICESE) and Fundación Chile.

Universidad Nacional de Colombia’s representative, Erasmo Rodríguez, said " on one hand, the course ‘Water of the Future: Tools for the Management of Water Resources’ provides the ideal setting to implement several RALCEA network proposals and, on the other, it will allow the exchange of knowledge and experiences among the members of the Latin American countries’ network. Particularly, regarding Drainage Systems and their monitoring, the course classes attempt to support decision making, through the description of different types of tools; and, specifically, strengthen water governance in urban water basins, through an active and effective participation of society, among others."

Axel Dourojeanni, exponentof the Course and Fundación Chile’s Senior Consultant, said: "I was in Guatemala during the Agatha storm in 2010. Then I participated in a mission organized by the World Bank and ECLAC, for the economic assessment of damages caused by it and by the eruption of Pacaya volcano. I am certain that this experience will be useful to focus our participation in the RALCEA course, towards the management of water required by this country and the rest of Latin America". 

"Surface and ground water sampling and taking samples is one of the most important activities of the processes related to the determination of water quality. This is how this course presents to its participants the relevance of an adequate and specific sampling for analysis purposes. The presentations also include from the relevance of the chain of custody, the validation of the data analyzed to the use of examples for the presentation of the results, in order to have a reliable and standardized tool to compare and analyze the quality of water" added Thomas Kretzschmar from the Centro de Investigación Científica y de Educación Superior de Ensenada (Scientific Research and Higher Education of Ensenada or CICESE), Baja California, Mexico. 

The representative of RALCEA’s Water Quality and Sanitation centerand the director of the Water Management Project at Fundación Chile, Claudia Galleguillos, explained: "These courses are a great challenge, since they support decision making and public policies in Latin America, through the RALCEA Centers of Excellence. The purpose of the cooperation program with the European Commission is to generate local capacities and put at the community’s disposal technical/scientific knowledge to support this task".

It is essential to note that Guatemala, the country that hosts this course, is subject to severe tropical storms and hurricanes such as "Mitch" in 1998 and the devastating storm "Agatha" in 2010, which strongly impacted production, communication channels, urban areas and hundreds of lives, generating losses equivalent to 1.6% of GDP and 1.0% respectively.

In this scenario came up the need to improve water supply and sanitation in rural areas, with the purpose of educating the community about managing water basinsto reduce erosion and the impact of flooding and, therefore, prevent the pollution of rivers and lakes in the region.

The Central American country has also made a number of organizational efforts to improve water management and water basins. That is why it currently has numerous studies, plans and legislation designed to develop water management and the creation of institutions that seek to analyze the context and provide support tools.

In the same way, in order to give sustainability to the network generated by the RALCEA Program, the Water Quality and Sanitation centergave a course in Bolivia denominated "Systems Wastewater Treatment for their Reuse" and soon there will be a seminar denominated "Implementation of environmental indicators for the global assessment of water resources", to be held in Panama between December 16 and 20 of this year.

Additionally, the Latin American countries that are part of RALCEA Program are preparing three Innovation and Development (R&D) projects, focused on addressing existing issues around the management of water resources, in order to support decision -making in public policies.