US Water Prize for Outstanding Nonprofit Organization: San Juan Bay Estuary Program
US Water Alliance | August 24, 2021
San Juan Bay Estuary Program, also called Estuario, is an initiative to restore and conserve the quality of the waters of the estuary's ecosystem in Puerto Rico. Estuario launched the Illicit Discharges Detection and Elimination (IDDE) Project, the only long-term strategy on the island for detecting and correcting illicit charges. Pinpointing illicit discharges allows Estuario to establish clear priorities and define a concrete action plan, and also enables PRASA (Puerto Rico’s only water utility) to maximize their time and resources.
Since its inception in 2018, the IDDE Project has corrected 87 percent of cases identified. As of September 2020, approximately 70 percent of diagnostic stations showed “good” or “moderate” water quality, a 40 percent increase since December 2017. Only 11 percent of 200 water monitoring stations were considered “impacted,” or indicative of the presence of significant sanitary discharge, which marks a 64 percent decrease since December 2017.
As a part of the IDDE Project, Estuario established the Water Community Network, also known as La Red—a network of volunteers from throughout the watershed who are committed to Estuario’s mission. La Red serves to help strengthen relationships with watershed communities. During the pandemic, La Red allowed the IDDE Project to continue by collaborating with residents virtually. Estuario is now focused on training the members of La Red to take on the role of administering the water monitoring stations.
Estuario is dedicated to ensuring the IDDE Project is a community-led water quality monitoring program and attributes the success of this project to the organization’s multisectoral and community-led approach. By empowering residents as citizen scientists, Estuario engages community members whose efforts improve the health of water bodies and related ecosystems.
The US Water Alliance is pleased to award the San Juan Bay Estuary Program with the US Water Prize for Outstanding Nonprofit Organization in recognition for their work advancing sustainable, integrated, and inclusive solutions to water challenges.