Rotary eClub One, District 5450
World's 1st eClub (Jan 2002)

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Guatemala: Rivers to Rain Project

Rotary's Water and Sanitation Rotary Action Group (WASRAG) presents ideas on watershed.


Watershed in Guatemala

Guatemala's Rivers To Rain non-profit organization attempts to draw attention to the neglected side of the water equation, the side where water is gathered. Almost all attention given to water is on the extraction side of the equation how much of it can we get out of the system? It is understandable that we should think of water in terms of what comes out of the tap. It should become equally understandable for us to appreciate nature's largess as measured out for us watershed by watershed.

RTR is working towards the goal of community-based watershed monitoring and management. The first step is to acquire rainfall and stream volume information. Long-term community conservation efforts require a firm knowledge of watershed essentials. Protecting that information in databases preferably computerized guarantees the usefulness of that data for future planning needs. The overall goal of RTR, to preserve the well-being of watersheds and to protect the quality of water, may best be achieved by local people. To this end RTR encourages local participation in water monitoring in order to reinforce local knowledge of the environment and to better protect it against inevitable natural blows and man made incursions.

Pressure will continue to grow on the sources of water, especially as population increases and developmental needs advance. Already reflecting its escalating value, water now is being thought of as the petroleum of the future. Valuable assets, especially when appreciating, attract attention and often intervention of one sort or another. The rural communities living within the bounds of their watersheds will face increased outside pressure to alter their natural resources. The best defence will be knowledge of their environment based on the facts and figures provided by long-term monitoring of rainfall and related stream flow volumes.

Rivers To Rain was formed in 2007 but had its beginning in the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch, when the damage done by heavy rains was observed and mapped in the town of Gualan. The importance of watersheds presented itself, veiled at first, behind hundreds of landslides scarring the hillsides. Each landslide represented not only a failure of the land use system and a breakdown of the immediate environment the watershed but also a threat to the natural water-replenishment system, and to the quality of drinking-water itself.

Rainfall and stream flow monitoring began in the watershed of the Mayuelas River, where it continues to this day. RTR's plan is to expand the process to all the watersheds of the town's large area then bring the technology to others towns. Just as the effort is not meant to end with only one watershed, it is not meant to end in a year or two. Watershed monitoring and management is meant for can only be of permanent value if it goes on long-term. Watershed well-being will be important as long as people need good-quality water.

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