The focus of this project is to use the “bottom-up” model of science to examine water quality on San Cristóbal. Under the supervision of Penn faculty and a Galápagos Naturalist Guide, this project aims to map the coliform levels in water throughout every Puerto Baquerizo Moreno home and business, establish a dozen or more clean water systems throughout the town, and present the findings of the project to the community, including the municipal and regional authorities. Bottled water dependency is a major problem for conservation on San Cristóbal, and by training a team of community scientists to take action in local water quality, we hope to address this crucial issue.
In 2019, the pilot version of this study examined the drinking water supply on San Cristóbal and the relationship between drinking water and plastic use. Residents executed tests on the tap water in their homes to measure coliform, E. coli, and chlorine levels. For comparison, they also tested the source they currently use for drinking water, whether that is from a filter, a five gallon bottle from a water company, tap water that they boil and store, or any other source. To address the plastic reduction part of the goals, residents took a survey about their plastic use and were given information about treating their own tap water to eliminate the need to purchase bottled water of any kind. This pilot included collaboration with the Scouts program on the island, teaching the water testing protocol to the kids and inviting them to test the tap water in their homes and their friends’ homes.
The ultimate goals of the project are to involve the community in the scientific protocol of testing, map coliform levels to hopefully identify the source of contamination, and reduce plastic waste from purchasing bottled water. In the future, we hope to expand the involvement of local students and community members to give them more ownership over the project.