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LA CALIDAD DEL AGUA EN LAS AMÉRICAS | RIESGOS Y OPORTUNIDADES 1

Water Quality in
the Americas
Risks and Opportunities
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES 1

Water Quality in
the Americas
Risks and Opportunities
2 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES

The Inter-American Network of Academies of Sciences IANAS


IANAS is a regional network of Academies of Sciences created to support cooperation to strengthen
science and technology as tools for advancing research and development, prosperity and equity in the
Americas. IANAS is regional member of the Inter Academy Partnership (IAP).

IANAS Water Program of IANAS


Co-Chairs: Juan Asenjo and Jeremy McNeil Co-Chairs: Katherine Vammen (Nicaragua),
Directora Ejecutiva: Adriana de la Cruz Molina Henry Vaux (USA). Co-Chair Honorarios: José
Tundisi (Brasil) and Blanca Jiménez (México).
Editorial Committee
Gabriel Roldán (Colombia), Jose Tundisi (Brazil), Blanca Jiménez Spanish proofreading
(Mexico), Katherine Vammen (Nicaragua), Henry Vaux (USA), Ma. Areli Montes Suárez
Ernesto González (Venezuela) with the collaboration of Miguel Doria and authors of the chapters.
of UNESCO-IHP for Latin America and the Caribbean.
Translation
Book Coordination Suzanne D. Stephens
Katherine Vammen, Heny Vaux and Adriana de la Cruz Molina.
Editorial Design
Reviewers Committee Víctor Daniel Moreno Alanís
Gabriel Roldán (Colombia), Katherine Vammen (Nicaragua),
Henry Vaux (USA), Ernesto González (Venezuela), Ricardo Izurieta Administrative Support
(Ecuador), José Fábrega (Panama) and Pablo Pastén González (Chile). Alejandra Muñoz Buenrostro

We are grateful for the reviews by the National Committees and Focal Points of the International Hydrological Program,
as well as the Members of CODIA who responded to the request for revision of the chapters of this publication.

Printed by The Inter-American Network of Academies of Sciences (IANAS-IAP) Calle Cipreses s/n, Km 23.5 de la Carret-
era Federal México-Cuernavaca, 14400 Tlalpan, Ciudad de México, México and the United Nations Educational, Scientif-
ic and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), 7, place de Fontenoy, 75352 Paris 07 SP, France, con oficina UNESCO en Monte-
video, Edificio Mercosur, Luis Pereira 1992, 2o piso, casilla de correo 859, 11200 Montevideo, Uruguay.

© IANAS 2019
ISBN: 978-607-8379-33-0
Printed in México

Open Access under the Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 IGO (CC-BY-SA 3.0 IGO) license (http://creativecommons.org/licens-
es/by-sa/3.0/igo/). For the printed and electronic book the present license applies exclusively to the text content of the
publication. For the use of any material not clearly identified as belonging to IANAS, IAP or UNESCO prior permission
shall be requested from: ianas2011@hotmail.com.

The designations employed and the presentation of material throughout this publication do not imply the expression
of any opinion whatsoever on the part of IANAS, IAP, UNESCO or CODIA concerning the legal status of any country,
territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries. The ideas and
opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors; they are not necessarily those of IANAS-IAP, UNESCO
or CODIA and do not commit the Organization.

This publication has been printed on ecological paper (FSC Certification): one part of the fibers is from recycled materi-
al and the other from forests exploited in a sustainable manner. Moreover, this paper is chlorine free (ECF Certification)
in order to contribute to the conservation of water resources.
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES 3

Water Quality in
the Americas
Risks and Opportunities
4 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES

Academies and scientific organizations affiliated to IANAS

Argentina
Robert Williams, President
Academia Nacional de Ciencias Exactas, Físicas y Naturales de Argentina
www.ancefn.org.ar

Juan Tirao, President


Academia Nacional de Ciencias
www.anc-argentina.org.ar/es/

Brazil
Luiz Davidovich, President
Academia Brasileira de Ciências
www.abc.org.br

Bolivia
Gonzalo Taboada López, President
Academia Nacional de Ciencias de Bolivia
www.aciencias.org.bo

Canada
Chad Gaffield, President
The Royal Society of Canada : The Academies of Arts, Humanities and Sciences of Canada
https://rsc-src.ca/en/

Caribbean
Winston Mellowes, President
Caribbean Academy of Sciences
www.caswi.org

Chile
María Cecilia Hidalgo Tapia, President
Academia Chilena de Ciencias
www.academia-ciencias.cl

Colombia
Enrique Forero, President
Academia Colombiana de Ciencias Exactas, Físicas y Naturales
www.accefyn.org.co

Costa Rica
Pedro León Azofeita, President
Academia Nacional de Ciencias Costa Rica
www.anc.cr

Cuba
Luis Velázquez Pérez, President
Academia de Ciencias de Cuba
www.academiaciencias.cu
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES 5

Ecuador
Washington Benítez, President
Academia de Ciencias del Ecuador
www.academiadecienciasecuador.org

Dominican Republic
Luis Scheker Ortiz, President
Academia de Ciencias de la República Dominicana
www.academiadecienciasrd.org

Guatemala
María del Carmen Samayoa, President
Academia de Ciencias Médicas, Físicas y Naturales de Guatemala
www.interacademies.net/Academies/ByRegion/LatinAmericaCarribbean/Guatemala/

Honduras
Mario Lanza, President
Academia Nacional de Ciencias de Honduras
www.guspepper.net/academia.htm

Mexico
José Luis Morán López, President
Academia Mexicana de Ciencias
www.amc.unam.mx

Nicaragua
María Luisa Acosta, President
Academia de Ciencias de Nicaragua
www.cienciasdenicaragua.org

Panama
Martín Candanedo, President
Asociación Panameña para el Avance de la Ciencia
www.apanac.org.edu.pa

Peru
Gustavo González, President
Academia Nacional de Ciencias del Perú
www.ancperu.org

United States of America


Marcia McNutt, President
The US-National Academy of Sciences
www.nasonline.org

Uruguay
Rafael Radi, President
Academia Nacional de Ciencias de la República Oriental del Uruguay
www.anciu.org.uy

Venezuela
Gioconda San-Blas, President
Academia de Ciencias Físicas, Matemáticas y Naturales de Venezuela
www.acfiman.org.ve
6 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES

Contents

Foreword 10

A General Overview of Water Quality in the Americas 12

Important Aspects related to Water Quality


Water and Society. The multidimensionality of water quality 20
María Luisa Torregrosa, Daniela de las Mercedes Arellano Acosta and Karina Kloster

Water and Health 27


Martín Forde, Ricardo Izurieta, Banu Ôrmeci, Mercedes Arellano and Kerry Mitchell

Biological Monitoring of Water Quality in the Americas 37


Ernesto González and Gabriel Roldán

Use of New Methodologies in Monitoring and Zoning Water Bodies in Argentina 51


César Luis García, Carlos Catalini and Carlos Marcelo Garcíae

On the subject of water quality in the Americas: Argentinas 57


Coordinators: Raúl A. Lopardo and Luis E. Higa. Authors: Emilio J Lentini, José María Regueira, Melina Tobías
and Raúl A. Lopardo

Drinking Water Quality in Bolivia 77


Coordinador: Fernando Urquidi. Authors: Carlos D. España Vásquez and Fernando Urquidi

Water Quality In Brazil 104


Coordinators: José Tundisi y Carlos Bicudo. Authors: Adalberto Luís Val, Carlos E. de M. Bicudo, Denise de C. Bicudo,
Diego Guimarães Florencio Fernando Rosado Spilki, Ina de Souza Nogueira, Ivanildo Hespanhol, José Almir Cirilo,
José Galizia Tundisi, Pedro Val, Ricardo Hirata, Sandra Maria Feliciano de Oliveira e Azevedo, Silvio Crestana
and Virginia S.T. Ciminelli.

Past, Present and Future Challenges to Management of Freshwater Quality in Canada 129
D. W. Schindler
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES 7

Special Chapter 149


Water Quality and Alternative Energy Nexus in the Americas
Kwame Emmanuel y Anthony Clayton. With the special contribution of Julián Despradel, Judith Franco, José María
Rincón-Martínez, Diana Marcela Durán-Hernández, Melio Sáenz y Felipe Cisneros, Claudio Wheelock, Julio López
de la Fuente, Erick Sandoval, Juan Rodríguez, Roberto Castello Tió and Mireya R. Goldwasser

Water Quality in Chile: Progress, Challenges and Perspectives 161


Coordinator: Pablo Pastén. Authors: Pablo Pastén, Alejandra Vega, Paula Guerra, Jaime Pizarro and Katherine Lizama

Water Quality in Colombia 192


Coordinator: Gabriel Roldán-Pérez. Authors: Gabriel Roldán-Pérez, Claudia Patricia Campuzano Ochoa,
Diego Alejandro Chalarca, Francisco José Molina Pérez, Diana Catalina Rodríguez Loaiza, Carlos Augusto Benjumea-
Hoyos, Silvia Lucía Villabona-González and María Isabel Ríos-Pulgarín.

Water Quality in Costa Rica 228


Coordinator: Hugo G. Hidalgo. Authors: Hugo G. Hidalgo, Monika Springer, Yamileth Astorga, Eddy Gómez,
Ingrid Vargas and Édgar Meléndez

Water Quality in Cuba 255


Coordinator: Joaquín B. Gutiérrez Díaz. Authors: Joaquín B. Gutiérrez Díaz and Jorge Mario García Fernández

Water Quality in the Dominican Republic 271


Coordinator: Eleuterio Martínez. Authors: Eleuterio Martínez, Roberto Castillo Tió,
Luis Reyes Tatis, Pedro de León and Luis Salcedo

Water Quality in Ecuador 303


Coordinator: Ricardo Izurieta. Authors: Ricardo Izurieta, Arturo Campaña, Juan Calles,
Edmundo Estévez and Tatiana Ochoa

Water Quality in the Americas: El Salvador 326


Julio César Quiñónez Basagoitia
8 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES

Water Quality in the Americas: Caribbean-Grenada 355


Coordinator: Martin S. Forde. Authors: Kerry Mitchell, Martin S. Forde and Allan Neptune

Water Quality in Guatemala 268


Coordinator: Manuel Basterrechea. Authors: Manuel Basterrechea, Margaret Dix, Sharon van Tuylen,
Ángela Méndez, Ligia Díaz, Pablo Mayorga and Norma Gil

Water Quality in Honduras 386


Coordinator: Marco Antonio Blair. Authors: Marco Antonio Blair, Pedro Ortiz,
Mirna Argueta and Luis Romero

Water Quality in Mexico 408


Coordinators: Arsenio González Reynoso, Blanca Jiménez Cisneros, Jorge Eugenio Barrios Reynoso y Maria Luisa
Torregrosa y Armentia. Authors: Adriana Carolina Flores-Díaz, Alma Chávez Mejía, Anne M. Hansen, Arsenio
González Reynoso, Beatriz Casasola, Blanca Jiménez Cisneros, Blanca Lucía Prado Pano, Brenda Rodríguez Herrera,
Daniel Murillo Licea, Erick D. Gutiérrez López, Fabiola Garduño, Gabriela Cabestany Ruiz, Ignacio González Mora,
Itzkuauhtli Zamora Sáenz, Jorge Eugenio Barrios Reynoso, José Antonio Barrios Pérez, José Joel Carrillo Rivera, Juan
Carlos Durán Álvarez, Juana Amalia Salgado López, Leopoldo G. Mendoza Espinosa, Lorenzo Gómez Morín, María
Aurora Armienta Hernández, María del Pilar Saldaña Fabela, Mariana Zareth Nava-López, Marisa Mazari-Hiriart,
María Luisa Torregrosa y Armentia, María Teresa Orta Ledezma Velásquez, Marinhe Concepción Rosas Rodríguez,
Miguel Palmas Tenorios, Miguel A. Córdova Rodríguez, Miriam G. Ramos-Escobedo, Porfirio Hernández H, Ramón
Pérez Gil Salcido, Ricardo Sandoval Minero, Robert Hunter Manson, Ronal Sawyer G., Sergio S. Ruiz-Córdova and
Sofía Esperanza Garrido Hoyos

Special Chapter 432


Gender, Women and the Quality of Water
Organized and edited by Frances Henry. Authors: Milena Cabrera Maldonado, Neela Badrie,
Mónica Moraes R., María Eugenia García, Christina Villamar, Banu Örmeci and Dayra Álvarez

The Challenges of Protecting Water Quality in Nicaragua 454


Coordinator: Katherine Vammen. Authors: Katherine Vammen, Elizabeth Peña, Indiana García, Erick Sandoval,
Mario Jiménez, Ivania Andrea Cornejo, Thelma Salvatierra, María José Zamorio, Claudio Wheelock,
Analy Baltodano and Romer Altamirano
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES 9

Water Quality in Panama 487


Coordinator: José R. Fábrega. Authors: José Fábrega, Elsa Flores, Manuel Zárate, Miroslava Morán,
Denise Delvalle, Argentina Ying, Marilyn Diéguez, Euclides Deago and Kathia Broce

Peru: the double challenge of water quality and water security 516
Coordinator: Nicole Bernex. Authors: Nicole Bernex, James Apaéstegui, Betty Chung, María Luisa Castro de
Esparza, José Bauer, Raúl Espinoza, César Vidal, Pablo Tsukayama, Martín Cabello-Vílchez and Katiusca Yakabi

Water Quality and its Management in the United States of America 542
Henry Vaux, Jr.

Water Quality in Uruguay: Current status and challenges 562


Coordinators: Jimena Alonso, Federico Quintans, Javier Taks and Daniel Conde. Authors: Jimena Alonso, Federico
Quintans, Javier Taks, Daniel Conde, Guillermo Chalar, Sylvia Bonilla, Rafael Arocena, Signe Haakonsson, Luis
Aubriot, Guillermo Goyenola, Pablo Muniz, Analía Marrero, Marisa Hutton, Natalia Venturini, Ana Laura Pita,
Karen Iglesias, Mariana Ríos, Natalia Zaldúa, Franco Teixeira de Mello, Alvaro Soutullo, Gabriela Eguren, Matías
Victoria, Fernando López Tort, Leticia Maya, Matías Castells, María José Benitez, Andrés Lizasoain, Estefany
Bertoni, Viviana Bortagaray, Matías Salvo, Rodney Colina, Karina Azuriz, Natalia Castagnet, Victoria Evia, Ana
Fernández, Ximena Lagos, Laura Marrero, Fernanda Milans, Matías Piaggio, Nicolás Rezzano, Julieta López,
Lorena Rodríguez, Saúl Garat, Margarita Pintos, Alejandro Iriburo, Beatriz Brena and Hernán Méndez

Water Quality in Venezuela 600


Coordinator: Ernesto J. González. Authors: Ernesto José González Rivas, Eduardo Buroz Castillo, Rafael Lairet
Centeno, María Virginia Najul, Henry Blanco, Rebeca Sánchez, Jorge Paolini, Ramón Montero, Haymara Álvarez,
Simón Astiz, Carlos Espinosa Jiménez, Vecellio Focà, Miguel Ángel Cabeza Díaz, Silvana Vielma Angarita, Lucas
Riestra, Antonio Machado-Allison and Pedro R. García Montero
10 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES

Foreword

This volume is the product of a collaborative effort between the Water Committee of the
InterAmerican Network of Academies of Science (IANAS) and the International Hydrology
Program of UNESCO. It is the latest of three publications resulting from this ongoing col-
laboration. Earlier efforts include a comprehensive overview of the water resources of the
Americas entitled Diagnosis of Water in the Americas, published in 2013 and a study of urban
waters entitled Urban Water: Challenges in the Americas, published in 2015. All these works
have been published in both English and Spanish to make them widely available to water
managers, scholars and the public throughout the Americas and globally. There is every rea-
son to expect that this collaboration will continue and build on its successful past in the fu-
ture. The editors of this volume are grateful for the support of their colleagues from UNESCO
in bringing this volume and its predecessors to fruition and look forward to the continued
success of the collaboration.
In the present book, focused on the problems and management of Water Quality, there
has been close collaboration with the Regional Bureau for Sciences in Latin America and the
Caribbean of UNESCO in Montevideo, specifically with the International Hydrological Pro-
gram for Latin America and the Caribbean (IHP-LAC) and the IHP Regional Hydrologist for
LAC, Dr. Miguel de Franco Doria. It is important to mention that a series of meetings were
held to support the preparation, organization and publication of this book: the IANAS Water
Program and UNESCO in Irvine, California (USA, September 2015, Water Quality in the Amer-
icas Workshop); the International Water Fair in November 2016 in Medellín, Colombia host-
ed by the Centro de Ciencias y Tecnología de Antioquia (Center of Science and technology of
Antioquia) and the Colombian Academy of Exact, Physical and Natural Sciences; the Meet-
ing of the Water Program in Ottawa hosted by the Royal Society of Canada, The Academies
of Arts, Humanities and Sciences of Canada and Carlton University (August, 2017); Sharing
Water: From Local to Global focusing on Water Quality in the Americas (Ipatinga, Brazil,
February, 2018) hosted by UNESCO-IHP; the World Water Forum, Brasilia, the Presentation
of Urban Waters Challenges in the Americas (March, 2018) supported by the Brazilian Acad-
emy of Sciences and the UNESCO Latin America-Caribbean Regional Training Workshop on
Emerging Pollutants in Water Resources organized by the UNESCO-IHP International Initia-
tive on Water Quality (IIWQ) in Campinas, Brazil, in December, 2018.
We would like to acknowledge the support from the Conferencia de Directores del Agua
(Spanish acronym-CODIA), which is active in promoting the dissemination of technical, sci-
entific, social and environmental knowledge in water resources for supporting this publica-
tion, particularly as regards the production of various promotional materials linked to this
publication.

IANAS provides free public access to these publications in:


https://www.ianas.org/index.php/books/ianas-publications
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES 11
12 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES

A General Overview of Water


Quality in the Americas
Co-Chairs of the IANAS Water Program
Katherine Vammen (Nicaragua) and Henry Vaux (USA)

Water resources are a key component supporting and strengthening sustainable develop-
ment in the American hemisphere and globally. “Water Quality in the Americas: Risks and
Opportunities” brings together a unified effort by the Academies of Sciences from 21 coun-
tries of the Americas. A team of 148 authors from all 21 countries, experts in different as-
pects of water science, produced this assessment from the perspective of the Academies of
Science, with the objective of analyzing specific problems of water quality and offering sug-
gestions for better management. The book provides an overview of surface and groundwa-
ter quality and impacts on human consumption, agriculture and ecosystem services in each
country, thereby creating a hemisphere-wide picture of the current status and future chal-
lenges for the quality of essential water resources. This overview will facilitate the creation
of new management concepts and the introduction of best practices in our diverse hemi-
sphere. The book considers areas of abundance and scarcity of water resources, ranging
from temperate to tropical conditions and puts water resource development in the context
of the great diversity of economic and social development in the Americas. It deals with the
different impacts of industrial and human activity in both urban and rural areas, problems
involved in potable water and wastewater treatment, and in particular, each country´s insti-
tutional and professional capacities to improve water governance.
In the beginning, management concepts were focused more on water balance in the
different watersheds; but today, availability is clearly being influenced by anthropogenic
impacts that affect water quality, and in turn the availability of the resource, for different
uses leading to problems of water security for the human population and for ecosystems.
The restoration of water quality involves many aspects from the protection of watersheds
at all levels to assuring improved environmental laws and their enforcement, all aimed at
reducing risks and vulnerability to assure water security. Science has a key role in develop-
ing evidence-based recommendations to assure water quality leading to better policies and
their timely implementation. It is imperative to improve the management of water resourc-
es throughout the Americas and to improve and better adapt governance to the specific re-
source conditions of each country as they address their particular water quality problems.
Globally, the deterioration of water quality has gone through a process of change par-
allel to changes in human activities, population growth, urbanization, industrialization and
progressive shifts in land use. Pollutants are continuously more complex and can be direct-
ly related to human health and significant impacts on the environment. This results in an
increase in costs for treatment for purification of water and wastewaters and affects eco-
system services. Water quality deterioration is due to human impacts, which began with
fecal and organic contamination at a time when water treatment was extremely limited in
the 1800s and was followed by an increase in metal pollution with special characteristics
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES 13

of bioaccumulation in aquatic ecosystems into the all marine environments of the world” and covers
1900s. Beginning in the 1960s with the increasing in- an “area of seven million square kilometers” (see
put of nutrients into receiving waterbodies, eutro- Chapter on Brazil). The adaptation of the aquatic
phication processes were observed throughout the biota due to the diversity of water types together
continent, which eventually reached levels causing with seasonal variation throughout the evolution-
cyanobacteria blooms resulting in cyanotoxin re- ary process has produced a unique combination of
lease into the water of lakes and reservoirs. From biodiversity. Human impacts on the water quality of
the Great Lakes of North America to reservoirs and the Amazon basin are threatening water quality and
lakes in South America, public concern was grow- biodiversity due mainly to certain mining activities,
ing, and the rapid proliferation of algal blooms urban impact and changes in land use (see Chapter
was increasingly subject to studies. (Tundisi, 2015; Brazil for more details. The situation in other wa-
Schindler, 1977). “These studies were aided by rap- tersheds in the region is, in many cases, similar or
id developments in chemical methods and equip- worse. Targeting the Amazon basin when there are
ment” (see chapter on Canada) and these advanc- worse cases-in North and South America-could be
es were quickly adopted by research teams looking misinterpreted
to identify and solve water pollution throughout There are new emerging risks for water qual-
the Americas, from the north of Canada to South ity that need special attention and are the subject
America. of evaluation in some chapters. Emergent con-
It became increasingly clear after some decades taminants are present in surface and groundwa-
of studies that both point and non-point sources ter sources which originate from drugs, cosmetics,
are important causes of pollution: (1) point sourc- antibiotics, hormones, nanomaterials and other in-
es (e.g. factories, sewage outfalls) without adequate puts which present new threats to human health,
waste treatment were causing eutrophication; and biodiversity and ecosystems. These need closer
(2) non-point sources and run off from agriculture analyses in the near future. Certain industrial min-
were the sources of the input of phosphorus, nitro- ing extraction methods initiated in the last decades
gen and other agrochemical into major waterbodies. such as sand tar mining and fracking in vulnerable
Organic chemicals became widely used in agricul- areas are producing new risks for water resources
ture. Persistent organic pollutants (POPs), herbi- that could have consequences for water quality and
cides and insecticides and the increase of uncon- therefore for human health.
trolled use of fertilizers became a major source of Global climate change also has multiple effects
pollution in water resources, surface- and ground- on water quality. Extreme events mean that wa-
water. Changes in land use, which promoted defor- ter sources which were once perennial now suffer
estation for expansion of agriculture and livestock from drought periods leading to a greater concen-
production, also created widespread sedimentation tration of pollutants with consequences for aquat-
into surface waters: lakes, reservoirs, rivers and ic biota and public water supplies. Insufficient wa-
coastal lagoons. All these processes affected wa- ter quantity in some areas has meant the use of the
ter for human consumption and led to a “reduction same water source for both water withdrawals for
in quality of ecosystems which support water re- human consumption and irrigation and at the same
sources and maintain their quality” (Tundisi, 2015). time for waste disposal (see Chapter on Canada).
Additionally, the integrity of key zones of protection On the other hand, flooding brings in large quan-
for water bodies such as riparian zones, wetlands tities of sedimentation and extreme events such as
and others such as the extremely delicate areas of hurricanes tend to destroy hydrological systems
recharge for groundwater and pristine sources of due to massive deforestation and extreme changes
hydrological systems was compromised. (sedimentation and siltation) in river and lake ba-
The American continent has many special areas sins drastically affecting flow regimes. Metals and
of global importance for climate and great hydro- nutrients which are weakly bound in sediments
logical significance. One feature, the Amazon River, can be released into the water in these events. In-
stands out as it flows for “6,992km and discharg- creases in the temperature of surface waters have
es close to 20% of all the freshwater that reaches already caused an intensification of cyanobacterial
14 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES

blooms as these species adapt rapidly to higher wa- it relatively easy to enforce regulatory standards.
ter temperatures and dominate the biodiversity of Non-point source pollution includes run-off from
phytoplankton in the aquatic ecosystems. Climate watershed lands that have been eroded or other-
warming also influences metal contamination, for wise heavily modified or denuded; run-off from
example, mercury can be released to downstream agricultural lands that contains the residues of ag-
waters after forest fires or disappearance of per- ricultural chemicals including fertilizers and pesti-
mafrost environments (for example in Canada, cides; run-off and particularly storm water run-off
and warming can also lead to reconcentration of from urban landscapes that contains all manner of
contaminants). chemicals including hydrocarbons and sediment.
This volume of Water Quality in the Americas is
intended to contribute to a greater understanding Agricultural Chemicals. Agricultural chemicals –
of current threats and impacts to water resources. mainly fertilizers and pesticides – are difficult to
The analyses therein are summarized in the follow- control both because the chemicals themselves may
ing sections. be damaging to the environment or human health
and are frequently not evaluated prior to commer-
cial release. In addition, decisions relating to how
Water Quality Problems much of a chemical to apply tend to be decentral-
ized and there is a tendency to apply more than is
of the Americas needed with the result that the quantities of chem-
icals in the run-off can be even greater than if the
Eutrophication quantities applied were optimal. Run-off from ag-
Virtually every country in the Americas experienc- ricultural lands has been implicated as the cause of
es some degree of artificial eutrophication in its “dead zones” found in waters where cultural eutro-
waterways and water bodies. Frequently, the eu- phication is especially severe.
trophication in question is characterized as cultural
eutrophication meaning that the phenomena is ar- Cyanobacterial Blooms and Toxins. A particularly in-
tificially established by an excess of nutrients in the sidious manifestation of eutrophication involves cy-
waters that are discharged by agricultural and in- anobacteria, which are photosynthesizing bacteria,
dustrial activities rather than occurring exclusively found naturally in terrestrial and aquatic habitats
from natural sources. The results are varied and in- around the world. Under conditions that include
clude algal blooms that are sometimes toxic and de- extreme levels of eutrophication and featuring spe-
plete dissolved oxygen. Cultural eutrophication can cific strains of cyanobacteria, the associated algal
render the water unsuitable for drinking and other blooms release toxins that are dangerous to ani-
purposes and destabilize the aquatic ecosystem in mals, some forms of plant life and humans. These
question. Such destabilization frequently results in toxins have been known to cause death in humans.
algal blooms with the subsequent release of toxins The potential for such blooms exists throughout the
and explosive growth of unwanted species. Green- Americas and is one extreme of the sort of contam-
house gas production in water reservoirs should ination that severe cultural eutrophication can lead
also be noted. to.

Non-point source pollution. Eutrophication is often, Chemical Contamination


though not always, caused by non-point source pol- The number of chemicals with the potential to con-
lution, which by itself creates vexing water quality taminate waterways and water bodies is almost
problems in virtually every country of the Ameri- limitless. Contamination of water with chemicals is
cas. Non-point source pollution involves pollutants ubiquitous and is found throughout the Americas in
that originate from diffuse sources that are difficult varying degrees of severity.
to regulate directly because it is impossible to iden-
tify points of origin. By contrast, point source pollu- Emerging Contaminants. New chemicals emerge ev-
tion emanates from an identifiable location making ery day in the agricultural, industrial and technol-
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES 15

ogy sectors. Although these products are intended Salinization. All naturally occurring waters contain
to offer solutions to various problems, many appear some salts. When water is evaporated, or trans-
soon afterwards in waterways and water bodies as pired in the case of agriculture, the salts remain. In
well as on the land. This appearance occurs before irrigated agriculture, some salinization is evitable
much is known about their health and environmen- and unless it is attended to it will ultimately reduce
tal impacts. No country in the Americas currently the productivity of the soils in question ending with
has the capacity to evaluate emerging contaminants a total loss of soil productivity. The remedy is to
either before or after their release into the environ- leach periodically the salts from the root zone. This
ment. The ultimate implications of this situation are requires water in addition to that necessary to sup-
totally unknown but it is clear that the prospects for port the crop. In arid regions throughout the Ameri-
dangerous and even deadly waterborne health im- cas salinization of agricultural lands is a threat. The
pacts rise with each passing day. waters to counteract salinization through leaching
may not be available in arid and semi-arid regions.
Toxic Chemicals. The lack of capacity to evaluate Sea water intrusion, which occurs when coastal
emerging new contaminants means that the in- and near coastal aquifers are overdrawn, is anoth-
ability to discriminate between toxic and non-tox- er form of water quality degradation. This is dealt
ic chemicals increases the threat to human health with in the section on groundwater below.
and well-being. There is particular concern about Contamination due to Urban Waste. The inad-
the fact that newly emerging chemicals or their me- equate disposal of urban solid waste and untreat-
tabolites may react with chemicals already in the ed industrial residue in garbage dumps can lead to
environment to produce toxins that are even more contamination of groundwater due to leaching pro-
dangerous than the original chemical. In addition, cesses. Rain and the humidity of residues acceler-
the failure to evaluate the impacts of discharging ate this process, transmitting various substances
toxic chemicals into water means that the potential harmful to human health, including carcinogenic
long-term impacts are poorly understood or not and toxic substances.
understood at all. The resources needed to assess
the long-term implications of chemicals that may Mining and Other Industrial Wastes. Mining and other
not be immediately toxic are simply not available in industrial wastes pose high risks to water quality
most of the countries of the Americas. because of the concentration of metallic and oth-
er compounds which can be mobilized by precipi-
Acid Rain. It is well established that emissions from tation and water transport through the soil. These
the combustion of fossil fuels released into the at- wastes can be particularly vexing to manage be-
mosphere can cause increases -and perhaps sig- cause sources are sometimes diffuse – as with acid
nificant increases – in the acidity of precipitation. mine drainage – and it is often difficult to identify
Increasing the acidity of precipitation has adverse the ownership of them. In countries with devel-
effects on aquatic habitats and may result in bio- oped economies, such wastes are typically cleaned
logical destabilization of those habitats. Acid rain up at very high cost. Countries with less robust
can also cause significant damage in urban areas economies will rarely be able to defray the costs of
through destruction of protective paints and oth- clean-up.
er coatings. Significantly, the impacts of increasing
acidic rain are often felt at locations that are remote Natural Contamination. Natural contamination also
from the places where the causative emissions oc- creates threats to water quality. Among the most
cur. This means that the emitting party frequently prominent of the contaminants are fluorides, boron
has no incentive to ameliorate the offending dis- and arsenic. These contaminants are usually found
charges. This problem is more pronounced in re- in soils and rocks and are mobilized through rainfall
gions of the Americas that rely exclusively on the and other weathering events. Fluorides are ubiqui-
burning of fossil fuels with a high sulphur content tous in the soil and water environment and are rel-
and the generation of NOx (Nitrogen Oxides) for atively harmless at low concentrations. However,
production of electricity and other commodities. they can be toxic at higher concentrations even in
16 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES

nature. Boron is typically present in soil and water shed lands and waterways can lead to excessive
and at higher concentrations can be toxic to plants mobilization of sediments and accelerated rates
including crop plants. Arsenic is toxic to humans of sediment transport. Excessive amounts of sedi-
and body burdens of arsenic are cumulative so even ment can destroy aquatic habitats, shorten the life
the ingestion of water with low arsenic concentra- of dams by prematurely filling reservoir space that
tions over time can have significant toxic impacts. would otherwise be available to store water and
Natural contaminations of all sorts are difficult to render the water unsuitable for some uses. Indis-
manage because they typically come from diffuse criminate land conversion as with the development
sources and from specific geological formations, of agricultural lands, clear cutting and modifying
such as volcanic origins. land surface in ways that increase water flow runoff
can all lead to excessive sedimentation. Activities
Biological and other non- that increase the rate of sedimentation occur on
Chemical Contaminants lands throughout the Americas with the result that
Microbes and other biological contaminants are sediment mobilization and transport will increase
well known. There are other contaminants that and cause degradation of surface water quality.
may or may not have biological properties that pose
threats to water quality. Microbial contamination. In spite of significant gains
in the provision of potable water supplies, micro-
Invasive Species. The advent of transportation tech- bial contamination continues to threaten the qual-
nology resulted in an ever more tightly linked globe. ity of many of these supplies. Modification and
In such circumstances it was almost inevitable that mismanagement of watershed lands threatens the
organisms could move from the accustomed habi- qualitative integrity of water from those lands. The
tats where they had evolved to more distant hab- absence of well-functioning and operated treat-
itats that they could colonize. The more distant ment facilities and the failure to maintain and re-
habitats lacked the predators and/or environmen- new existing facilities increases the possibilities for
tal conditions that had tended to keep population microbial contamination. No country in the Ameri-
numbers stable in the original habitat. The result cas is free of concerns about eliminating microbial
was frequently a population explosion in the new contamination of potable water supplies although
habitat that continued until it could no longer be the situation is worse in some countries than oth-
supported, and the population numbers crashed. ers. Both bacterial and viral pollution need to be
Modified landscapes and aquatic environments considered in monitoring programs. This situation
also invite the invasion of other species for a vari- deteriorates further due to exposure to untreated
ety of reasons. Invasive species can do significant liquid urban waste and agriculture.
damage to the environmental integrity of an aquat-
ic habitat affecting trophic levels in the ecosystem, Adequate sanitation. Many countries in the Ameri-
leading in some cases to the extinction of import- cas have made impressive gains in the provision of
ant species. Significant resources have already been sanitation service over the past decades. This has
devoted to the management of invasive species to entailed the construction of wastewater treatment
counteract the substantial damage that they can in- facilities and the development of a cadre of workers
flict. The advent of global warming and other envi- who can operate them. Still many countries of the
ronmental changes suggests that invasive species Americas are behind in the coverage of sanitation
will appear throughout the Americas (and the rest in urban areas and when existent lack adequate
of the globe) with increasing frequency and atten- treatment before the effluents enter into receiv-
dant increases in the cost of control. Such invasion ing bodies and therefore cause further pollution to
will affect aquatic habitats. important waterbodies. Rural sanitation remains a
problem, even in countries where total coverage is
Sedimentation. Sedimentation is a natural process reasonably high. Maintenance and renewal of sani-
of wearing down the landscape and transporting tation facilities may become a significant problem
the material. However, mismanagement of water- over time because of high cost and popular apathy.
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES 17

Groundwater
The importance of groundwater as a potential material discharged as waste to the environment
source of supply and the management of it to pro- is approximately equal to the mass of material that
tect both available quantities and good quality has enters into production processes. This means that
been largely neglected throughout the Americas. It there are only two ways in which the volume of pol-
is not widely appreciated that it is almost always lutants can be reduced: 1) reduce the throughput
cheaper to protect groundwater quality than it is to or 2) recycle and reuse the materials that are being
clean it up after it has been contaminated. Ground- discharged into the environment. Recycling is prac-
water quality protection is made difficult by the fact ticed to one degree or another throughout the hemi-
that most contaminants come from diffuse sourc- sphere, but the scale of recycling programs needs to
es and that contamination moves underground at be increased. Similarly, it is important to note that
different rates which are difficult and expensive to waste sinks – water, air and land – are interconnect-
monitor. In general, groundwater quality must be ed so that a reduction of quality in one sink implies
managed indirectly by specifying a set of best man- an increase in quality in the others. Programs that
agement practices to govern activities that are un- are sink specific – such as some of those in the Unit-
dertaken in recharge areas. A well-designed set of ed States – simply move the wastes around and fail
practices will minimize or eliminate the possibility to acknowledge the fact that sinks are essential, yet
of contaminants from reaching the aquifer in ques- largely absent throughout the Americas.
tion. Well-head protection programs are especial-
ly important inasmuch as contaminants can reach Monitoring
the groundwater almost instantaneous if they flow No pollution management program can be suc-
down wells. cessfully mounted without some information on
A special problem occurs where coastal aqui- the state and quality of the aquatic environment. A
fers are overdrafted (more is extracted than re- minimum of data is needed about water flows and
charged) and the level of the water table drops. water quality. In spite of this fact the level of moni-
When that level falls below sea level, sea water may toring in virtually every country of the Americas is
intrude into the aquifer. Progressive salinization of inadequate. Where data is inadequate the manage-
the aquifer then results if remedial actions are not ment problem becomes one of managing risk and
taken. The obvious remedy is to eliminate the over- uncertainty. Risk management also requires some
draft and allow the water table to recover. Other monitoring as well as research to determine the
methods of hydrologic manipulation, which require risk associated with different pollutants. Monitor-
additional water supplies have been employed suc- ing and data generation must usually be undertak-
cessfully. Artificial desalination is another potential en by the central government because of the inter-
remedy, but it is very costly. dependency of waters flowing between States and
  Provinces. The difficulty is that programs of data
collection and analyses lack political appeal and
Managing Water Quality therefore are usually inadequate to the task at hand.
in the Americas
No country in the Americas is totally successful in Research Programs
managing water quality. This finding includes the Effective management programs should be based
developed countries as well as those that are de- upon the science of water quality. As economic and
veloping. The ingredients of a successful manage- population growth proceed, the water quality man-
ment program are well known and are summarized agement problem becomes more extensive and
below. more complicated. This requires more scientific re-
search in order to understand both the nature of the
Recycling and Reuse problem and appropriate measures to combat it.
The Principle of Materials Balance, derived from the Research programs require public investment. Such
Law of Conservation of Mass, holds that the mass of investment is inadequate in virtually every country
18 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES

The Dimensions of Water Quality:


Society, Health, Women, Energy
and Monitoring
of the Americas. At stake is the cost and effective- As water quality depends on human activities and
ness of existing and future programs of pollution directly acts on human health, this book contains
management and abatement. A robust program of subchapters dealing with these important aspects:
research has the advantage of keeping scientists in “Water and Society: The Multidimensions of Wa-
contact with their colleagues throughout the hemi- ter Quality” and “Water and Health”. As mentioned
sphere so that scientific knowledge generated in above, in order to understand the state of water
other countries is available to all. quality in the different resources and its levels it
is essential to develop improved monitoring pro-
Policy Making and Governance grams. Two subchapters on special monitoring as-
Programs of effective pollution management re- pects have been included: “Biological Monitoring of
quire explicit statements of policy goals and poli- Water Quality and “Application of new methodolo-
cies and rules for achieving those goals. Thus, for gies in monitoring and zoning plans for waterbod-
example, the statement of goals needs to enumer- ies” which give examples of important components
ate whether the pollution control strategy will en- and methodologies for future monitoring programs.
tail direct government controls, a more indirect in- The importance of the role of women in secur-
centive based system or some mixture of the two. ing water quality in the home and in industry and
It is important to recognize that merely develop- agriculture, is a topic which is not always dealt with
ing a standard is not sufficient. Policies must be de- and therefore the Women in Science program of
vised to select the level of the standard and solve IANAS, which is also in line with the priority of UN-
the problems of compliance and enforcement. Com- ESCO related to gender equality, have contributed
prehensive pollution control policies will normally a special feature chapter “Gender, Women and the
have components covering: 1) education; 2) price Quality of Water” dealing with experiences in sev-
based incentives such as tradable pollution per- eral developing countries of Latin America and the
mits: 3) a system of standards and 4) a hierarchy of Caribbean, which demonstrate the importance of
enforcement mechanisms. water quality and the treatment of wastewaters in
Managing water quality also requires an effec- the lives of women.
tive array of institutions to establish the policies, The Energy Program carried out small stud-
monitor the results and enforce the resultant stan- ies in most countries represented in IANAS to de-
dards and policies. Institutions include laws, public termine whether there has been progress on the
agencies, appropriate policies and appropriate en- use of renewable energy in assuring water quality.
forcement mechanisms. Strong institutions that are These findings have been presented in a special fea-
reliable, and with adequate human and financial re- ture chapter which illustrate some examples in the
sources, are an essential part of any effective pollu- Americas.
tion control programs, yet they are largely absent in
the Americas.
Referencias
Sustainable Development Goal 6:
Target 6.3 Water Quality Schindler, D.W. (1977). Evolution of phosphorus lim-
Target 6.3 deals with reducing contamination, ille- itation in lakes. Science 195, pp. 260-262.
gal waste disposal and hazardous chemical mate- Tundisi, J.G.; Matsumuro-Tundisi, T.; Ciminelli, V.S.
rials with a special mention to cutting untreated & Barbosa, F.A. (2015). Water availability, wa-
wastewater by half and increasing recycling and ter quality water governance: the future ahead.
safe reuse. Each country chapter deals with these Hydrological Sciences and Water Security: Past,
challenges and includes some examples of efforts to Present and Future. (Proceedings of the 11th Ko-
promote reuse especially efforts in countries with vacs Colloquium, Paris, Francia, June 2014). IAHS
less abundance of water. Publ. 366, 2015.

WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES 19

Important
Aspects Related to
Water Quality
20 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES

Water and Society


The multidimensionality of water quality
María Luisa Torregrosa (Mexico), Daniela de las Mercedes Arellano Acosta (Cuba) and Karina Kloster (Mexico)

Introduction
Addressing problems related to water quality in the region is not an easy task. Despite the
many efforts made by various governments since the 1970s, the delay of many countries in
expanding water and sanitation services in sufficient quantity and quality, particularly in
the peri-urban and rural communities, remains. Particularly in Latin America, there is enor-
mous heterogeneity in the forms of access to water. There is still a large sector of the popula-
tion located in marginal and peri-urban areas that access water through tanker trucks, low-
cost plastic carboys from nearby unsafe sources, among others, all of which are unreliable
regarding water quality (Jiménez, 2009),1 without mentioning the risks to which the rural
population is subject due to the high degree of contamination of sources due to problems of
eutrophication or other types of pollution that are increased by the absence of drainage and
the forms of final disposal of gray water and sewage.
In urban settlements, this final disposal is a problem that persists in Latin American
countries, in addition to those derived from the lack of investment to maintain and improve
infrastructure. Many cities still lack drainage and sanitation systems, and when they do ex-
ist, they are often either not operated correctly or never begin operating.
Likewise, the absence or limitation of regulatory frameworks and their application in
terms of sanitation persists, together with the final disposal of wastewater from cities, in-
dustries -particularly extractive industries-, and agriculture, which has had major conse-
quences for the water quality of our countries.
Another important obstacle to improving the water quality of many of our countries is
the delay in or, at worst, absence of reliable data indicating the current quality. Data on san-
itation services often only refer to the sewage disposed through sewerage services without
considering its treatment, that of gray water and its safe final disposal in the receiving bod-
ies. This has significant consequences and an incidence that is reflected in the amount of
contaminated sources and high rates of waterborne diseases in the population.
These deficiencies in the quality of the water supplied to the population, whether it is
connected to networks or obtained by other means, has led people to resort to the purchase
of bottled water, which is unregulated and for which there is no certainty about the quality
that it distributes (Pacheco-Vega, 2017). Alternatively, they purchase home water purifica-
tion systems, which increases the cost of this resource by 30 or 50% over the official price,

1. Independent studies undertaken by academic institutions reveal that, although a high percentage of water is
chlorinated, of the water received in homes, only 30% of the cases meet the requirements established for the pres-
ence of microorganisms and chlorine residues ( Jiménez et al., 2002).
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES 21

which is generally assumed by the more disadvan- Box 1


taged sectors of the population or, failing that, they Access to water in quantity and quality for all sectors
pay the health costs of being unable to purify water. of society can only be achieved by adopting an inte-
Looking at these results, we should ask our- grated, multidimensional approach in which the pro-
selves: Why is it so difficult to obtain good wa- vision of water and sanitation services is organized
ter quality in our countries? What do we need to through a wide array of institutional, formal and in-
achieve this? What are the crucial factors for reduc- formal arrangements , which take into account the
ing the water and sanitation deficit? What is the re- various characteristics and local conditions.
lationship between water and sanitation services
and the availability of water and technologies, eco-
nomic status, legal framework, institutional capaci-
ty and water policies?
There are multiple formal and informal water that provide it and confront it with the unilateral
supply strategies that have proven to be success- institutional construction of what is considered wa-
ful in both developed and developing countries, ter and its quality.
ranging from state or municipal public manage- This leads us to consider issues that could shed
ment, public-private participation and cooperative light on the difficulties this implies, such as the re-
models to community management, among others lationship between water and society , the forms of
(Torregrosa and Jiménez 2009:348, Hukka and Kat- water governance and the power relations embed-
ko, 2009, Pietilä et al., 2009, Muradian et al., 2013). ded in them.
In the case of the final disposal of gray and black
water and sanitation, the problems we face are
even more complex and often transcend the pos- How do we conceive the relationship
sibilities of being resolved at the community level.
There have been significant experiences of working
between water and society?
with wastewater removal at the community level One of the ways in which the relationship between
but very few of coping with and solving sanitation water and society has been conceived is through the
problems. This is reflected in water quality. idea of governance. The idea would be that a good
This suggests that the problem of water quality water government would pay for the existence of
lies in the multiplicity of factors that determine it. institutions that make it possible to guarantee wa-
We are used to addressing water-related problems ter in sufficient quantity and quality for all inhab-
in a fragmented way, from different specialties or itants, based on the idea that governance is pro-
fields of experience. But solving problems related to vided by the way policies regulate and coordinate
water quality is complex and multidimensional. In the management of natural, economic and social
this respect, they are not only economic, technolog- resources and, on this basis, assuming the propos-
ical or institutional issues. It is important to explore al made by UNESCO2 that “water governance is de-
other rarely considered aspects, which may be af- fined by the political, social, economic and admin-
fecting the obtainment of better water quality. istrative systems that are operating and directly or
This also raises the question or institutional is- indirectly affect the use, development and manage-
sues Why is it so difficult to interact with different ment of water resources, as well as the distribution
ways of understanding, seeing and solving prob- of water supply services at various levels of society”
lems related to water and sanitation and to make (Global Water Partnership, 2003). The following is a
these differences part of public policy? reflection on inclusion, responsibility, participation,
One way to approach the issue may be from the transparency, predictability and receptivity, as nec-
perspective of the social nature of water, which essary conditions for good governance and an effec-
would give us the possibility of thinking about the
quality of water produced socially from the culture, 2. http://www.waterhistory.org/histories/nile and www.theoi.
knowledge, practices, ideas, meanings and values com/Titan/Titanokeanos.html
22 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES

tive relationship between water and society, rarely 1.4 Transparency


observed in Latin America today. Transparency is one of the principles of effective
governance, as shown in the following quote: “In-
1. Necessary conditions for water stitutions should work openly. They should use lan-
governance guage that is understandable and accessible, so that
the general public has more confidence in complex
1.1 Inclusion institutions. In addition to being open, good gover-
A review of the contents of the Hague Ministerial nance requires that all policy decisions be transpar-
Declaration held at the beginning of this century ent, so that both those who are directly involved and
(2000) referred to this aspect and called for “wisely those who are not can easily follow the steps taken
governing water in order to ensure good governance, in policy design. This is particularly important as re-
so as to involve the public and ensure that the inter- gards financial transactions” (Alcocer et al., 1988).
ests of all stakeholder groups are included in water For these transactions, transparency is vital, since
resource management”. it contributes to overcoming the challenge societies
This rules out any initiative establishing bor- face for dealing with corruption. One cannot ignore
ders for the guarantee of water service in quantity the fact that transparency is built on the basis of the
and quality, among those living in marginal areas, free flow of information.
indigenous communities or suburban areas and re-
siding in neighborhoods or any other type of prop- 1.5 Predictability
erty owned by more affluent social sectors. Having representative, reliable and sufficient infor-
mation about all the scenarios linked to water re-
1.2 Responsibility source management, constitutes the basis for con-
Water resource management entails responsibili- ducting the analyses (technical economic, cost/
ties for society as a whole, which must be includ- benefits, budgetary and financial, etc.) required to
ed in the principles and legal bases on which this predict, at the temporal and spatial level, how and
management is based. This responsibility includes when the competent institutions will have the nec-
the prevention of pollution by all social actors, and essary financial resources to undertake the works
aspects related to the financial sustainability of the and investments related to the storage, protection
system adopted. The responsibility associated with and distribution of these resources, as well as for
effective water governance demands that the roles their treatment at the stage when they become
of these actors be defined. residual.
Without justifying those governments whose One good practice worth highlighting, estab-
interest in sustainable water resource management lished in Cuba and validated by the work undertak-
is only evident in their discourse in electoral pro- en over the past 50 years, is the systematic observa-
cesses and campaigns, there is generally a limited tion (twice a year) of inland water quality, through
perception of individual responsibilities in terms of a network that has a number of stations totaling
the management and protection of water resources. between 2 400 and 3 500. Seventy-five per cent of
these stations classify as basic (generating descrip-
1.3 Participation tive, long-term information on the most important
Water resource management is carried out on the waterbodies in the country), while the other 25%
basis of the interests and participation of society as correspond to control and monitoring stations,
a whole, regardless of the social strata of its mem- mostly associated with surface waters, including
bers. Accordingly, governments at all levels must residual discharge.
develop an inclusive approach during the formu- The inventory of polluting sources of inland wa-
lation and implementation of policies related to ters, which serves as a tool for the surveillance and
these resources. In terms of effective water gover- control of their quality and the exercise of the re-
nance, participation is developed on the basis of sponsibility that concerns the state in terms of the
social mobilization and the ability to exercise this sustainable management of this resource, has iden-
constructively. tified 2 260 main polluting sources of inland waters.
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES 23

This information, based on real data, serves as Box 2


input for the adoption of the policies to be imple- The notion of the hydrosocial cycle is constructed in op-
mented in the short, medium and long terms, so position to the conventional use of the water cycle, which
that the institutions responsible for these actions “continues eternally with or without human activity”, and
can complete them with the corresponding respon- points to a static and reified notion of this cycle as Maid-
sibility. In fact, predictability is an effective ally of ment (1993) points out (Linton, 2010:231 ). In the opposite
responsibility. direction, the water cycle “proposes a science whose field
is defined between the hydrological and the social and is
1.6. Receptivity therefore presented as a means of producing critical knowl-
Receptivity in water resource management relies edge about the social nature of water,” says Maidment (Lar-
heavily on the effectiveness of the mechanisms in- simont and Grosso, 2014:8).
stitutions have for receiving information from the
lowest levels at which they provide water of the ap-
propriate quality.
An effective information system is built on the
foundations of social mobilization and freedom of first characteristic assumes that water under any
expression for its social appropriation. circumstance can be reduced to H2O; the second re-
On the basis of the previous elements, we think fers to its deterritorialization,3 in other words, its
that the problem of water quality, like many others on spatial delocalization; and lastly, it warns us about
the agendas of the governments of several countries its dematerialization, in other words, the fact that
in the region, emerges when each of these points is the conquest of water through its abstraction and
evaluated and it becomes clear that although ideas technical control has destroyed the relationship
on water governance assume the desirable image of specific social groups had -or have-, with water in
water management, the way they operate in practice particular territories.
is far from ideal. The way water governance occurs In short, from this perspective, what the mod-
is based on power relations that subordinate the de- ern construction of water ignores is its social na-
cision-making power of some to the detriment of ture, and as a result, it deprives society of the abili-
political agendas that do not necessarily correspond ty to think of itself as a producer of water and of its
to the ideals of inclusion. In this respect, the func- quality.
tioning of society can be said to pose obstacles to the Accordingly, the starting point for the discus-
achievement of good water governance. sion is repeated, emphasizing that the nature of
water is based on the ways society produces water
2. Alienation as an inhibiting mechanism through its practices, knowledge, ideas, meanings,
of good governance values and the potentials it confers on it. Separating
According to Linton, (2010) the hegemonic construc- society from these ideas entails creating alienation
tion of water refers to a social order that decides on from the social nature of water and, therefore, the
its meanings, the uses of water, institutions, laws political subordination of the majority of the pop-
and the authorities responsible for managing it, as ulation. In this respect, the power factor becomes
well as the techniques and distribution of the ben- crucial to understanding the governance of water
efits derived from its allocation. In his text, he asks: and the future of the institutions that exercise its
how were we taught to produce the idea of water management.
as an abstraction, a compound of hydrogen and ox- These are the arguments that allow us to reflect
ygen synthesized in the chemical formula H20? A and encourage discussions that will answer the
central point highlighted by the author points is question related to the water - society link. These
that one of the main characteristics of modern wa- arguments lead to the second question we formu-
ter is its simplicity and its simplification. lated, explained below.
Linton lists three main characteristics of the
modern idea of water: its universality, the fact of be- 3. Also valid for islands, although the territorial dimension is re-
ing any (inland) water and of being anywhere. The duced to municipalities and provinces or their equivalent.
24 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES

How we achieve water quality with


this diversity
At this point in the reflection, the aspect of pow- gles for water access and control, and exclusion and
er becomes central and therefore the conception access mechanisms are expressed in institutions,
of the hydrosocial cycle of critical geography ex- through factors such as hydraulic works, legisla-
pressed in the development of political ecology be- tion, institutions, practices and symbolic meanings
comes extremely important. A central premise of (Larsimont and Grosso, 2014:8). When we speak of
political ecology, as noted by Swyngedouw (2004), water flows, we refer to the complete hydrosocial
is that the circulation of water is both a social and cycle, not only the relationships activated for its ac-
physical process. Accordingly, the idea of circula- cess but also the relationships involved in the uses,
tion invites us to understand how flows of water, quality and ways in which its final disposal occurs.
capital and power are materially linked (Larsimont It is important to note that the natural resourc-
and Grosso, 2014:7) es existing in ecosystems are the sustenance of life
Thus, in addition to examining how water flows and that water guarantees the services of ecosys-
within the physical environment (atmosphere, sur- tems, while man is the main user of the goods (and
face, subsoil, biomass), the “hydrosocial” cycle also services) they provide. These interrelationships de-
considers how water is manipulated, used and con- termine the inseparability between water, sustain-
centrated by social stakeholders, how the strug- able socioeconomic development and life systems.

Figure 1. Sustainable Development Goals 2030


The essence of the Sustainable Development Goals until 2030 approved by the United Nations (December, 2015), is evidence of
the transversality and social nature of water. None of these objectives can be met unless, “water availability and sustainable
management and sanitation for all are guaranteed”.
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES 25

Accordingly, it is necessary to become aware From the above, we can therefore derive what
that from a scientific perspective, the water cycle we initially recognized, namely that access to water
that schematizes the occurrence of water in na- in quantity and quality for all sectors of society can
ture must be perceived as a hydrosocial cycle, giv- only be achieved by destroying the epistemic obsta-
en the significant impact society has on the behav- cles imposed by the various disciplinary perspec-
ior of each of the components of that cycle. In this tives and instead adopting an integrated, multidi-
respect, becoming aware of the social construction mensional approach, built on the reappropriation
of water quality is a determining factor for creating of the knowledge and powers of the citizens with
better institutional models that enable good water whom water governance is organized.
governance.

A global look forward: United Nations References


Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Alcocer, D.J., E. Kato, E. Robles y G. Vilaclara (1988).
until 2030 Estudio preliminar del efecto del dragado sobre
Water-related problems facing society require glob- el estado trófico del Lago Viejo de Chapultepec.
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Actions at the local level have exceeded the lim- laseñor; H. Mangoy (2002). The role of arse-
its of ecosystems,4 and that level has created global nic-bearing rocks in groundwater pollution at
consequences. Accordingly, the change in society’s Zimapan Valley, Mexico. Environmental Geology
actions and attitudes towards these problems must 42:433–438.
be conceptualized and addressed at all levels, be- Budds, J (2012). La demanda, evaluación y asig-
ginning with the local level, but always with a view nación del agua en el contexto de escasez: un
towards the global level. análisis del ciclo hidrosocial del valle del río La
Figure 1 attempts to outline how the 17 SDGs re- Ligua, Chile. Revista Geografía Norte Grande, No.
late to SDG 6 concerning water. It show the social 52: 167-184.
perspective of water and its transversality with lo- Comisión Nacional del Agua (CONAGUA) (2011). Es-
cal and global scales. tadísticas del agua en México. México, CONAGUA
According to Sandoval Minero (2017), this Comisión Nacional del Agua (CONAGUA) (2013).
means that the effort to achieve SDGs must be much Situación del subsector agua potable, alcantaril-
greater in terms of financial terms, institutional re- lado y saneamiento. México: CONAGUA
forms, organization and governance. In this respect, Carrillo, A. and Drever, J. (1998). Environmental as-
the achievement of the water target entails the re- sessment of the potential for arsenic leaching
duction of poverty, the improvement in food and into groundwater from mine wastes in Baja Cal-
health of the population, regular school attendance ifornia Sur, México. Geofísica Internacional, 37,
by children, the reduction of domestic burdens that 35-39.
mainly affect women, labor productivity, the reduc- Carrillo-Rivera, J.J., Cardona, A., Huizar-Alvarez, R.,
tion of social inequality, the sustainability of cities, Graniel-Castro, E. (2008). Response of the inter­
as well as the care of marine and inland aquatic action between groundwater and other compo-
ecosystems (Sandoval Minero, 2017:129). Lastly, in- nents of the environment in Mexico. Environ-
tegrated water management influences water qual- mental Geology, 55, 303-319.
ity access. Escolero, O.; S. Kralisch, S.E. Martínez, M. Perev-
ochtchikova (2016). Diagnóstico y análisis de
los factores que influyen en la vulnerabilidad
4. Human water management has not only jeopardized the abil-
ity to create a sustainable water cycle, but also endangers water
de las fuentes de abastecimiento de agua pota-
for the different forms of life that also depend on it (Pacheco-Ve- ble a la Ciudad de México. Boletín de la Sociedad
ga, 2017). Geológica Mexicana, Vol. 68 N° 3 pp. 409‒427.
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García, R. (2006). Sistemas complejos. Barcelona: Muradian R., B. Nath, A. Jafar and L. Doménech
Gedisa (2009). The South Asian Experience: Financial
Global Water Partnership (2003). Tec Background Arrangements for Facilitating Local Participa-
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Hukka, J.J. & T. Katko (2009). Complementary Para- terventions in Poor Urban Areas- Lessons from
digms of Water and Sanitation Services: Lessons Bangladesh and Nepal. Water and Sanitation
from the Finnish Expirience. Water and Sani- Services. Public Policy and Management. Earth-
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Earthcan, UK. Peña, A. (2011). Introducción al libro What’s Water
Jiménez, B. (2009) Management of Water in Mex- en Boletín 74. México: El Colegio de Hidalgo.
ico City, in Mays, L. (ed.) Integrated Urban Wa- Pietilä P., M. J. Gunnarsdóttir, P Hjorth and S. Balslev
ter Management in Arid and Semi-arid Regions (2009). Decentralized Services: The Nordic Ex-
around the World. Paris: UNESCO. perience. Water and Sanitation Services. Public
Larsimont, R. y Grosso, V. (2014). Aproximación a Policy and Management. Earthcan, UK.
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problemáticas híbridas. Cardinalis, Revista del ization of water: flows of power. Oxford: Oxford
Departamento de Geografía, Año 2, No. 2, Facul- University Press.
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Córdoba, Argentina Agenda ciudadana de ciencia, tecnología e inno-
Linton, J. (2010). What is Water? A history of a mod- vación. México: CONACYT, AMC, UNAM.
ern abstraction. University of Vancouver. Cana- Torregrosa, M.L & B. Jiménez (2009). Faxcing the
da: British Columbia Press. Universal Access of Water and Sanitation in
Meerganz Von Medeazza, G. (2006) Flujos de agua, Mexico. Water and Sanitation Services. Public
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Latinoamérica y en el Estado Español. Doc. Anal.
Geogr. 47: 127-139.
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES 27

Water and Health


Martín Forde (Grenada), Ricardo Izurieta (Ecuador), Banu Ôrmeci (Canadá),
Mercedes Arellano (Cuba) y Kerry Mitchell (Grenada)

Introduction
The link between water and human health is immutable. Water not only is essential for life,
but more immediately, for good health and well-being. Given that over 60% of the human
body is water, readily having it in sufficient quantities and quality is fundamental both for
our health and wellbeing.
When the United Nations launched the first International Drinking-Water Supply and
Sanitation Decade (1981 – 1990) in 1977, its purpose was to bring attention and support for
clean water and sanitation worldwide. The philosophy that all peoples, regardless of their
socio-economic status, have a basic right to drinking-water both in quantities and quality
equal to their basic needs was recognized and adopted. In the sentinel conference held to
elucidate primary health care factors held in Almaty (formerly Alma-Ata), Kazakhstan, 1978,
the need for an adequate supply of safe water and basic sanitation was specified.
In 2000, the United Nations codified political commitments aimed at tackling major de-
velopment issues faced by the developing world within a fixed period of time into 8 Mil-
lennium Development Goals (MDGs). While many of these MDGs can either be directly or
indirectly linked to water supply and sanitation issues, Goal 7 on environmental sustain-
ability, and in particular Target 10, declared the goal that by 2015 to halve the proportion of
people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation. In 2015, the
UN launched the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as Global Goals, which
again declared as one of its goals (Goal #6) that all humans by 2030 have access to safe and
affordable drinking water
The continued, sustained focus on providing safe drinking water to all was reiterated
by the UN Secretary-General António Guterres at the launch of the International Decade for
Action 2018-2028, in New York, on World Water Day, March 22, 2018. Prime goals of this latest
water-based plan are to make a global call to action for water, sanitation and hygiene¬¬–or
WASH¬–and to put a greater focus on water-related sustainable development goals and in-
tegrated management of water resources over the next ten years.
The UN’s SDG Water Goal has both a direct and indirect impact on human health as it can
be related to child mortality, maternal health, hunger, and several notable diseases such as
malaria, dengue fever and others. The former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi A. An-
nan declared that “we shall not finally defeat AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, or any of the other
infectious diseases that plague the developing world until we have also won the battle for
safe drinking-water, sanitation and basic health care.”

Martin Forde martinforde@mac.com Doctor en Ciencias, Universidad de San Jorge. Ricardo Izurieta rizuriet@health.usf.edu Depart-
ment of Global Health, University of South Florida (USF); Colegio de Medicina, Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ), Banu Ôrmeci
banu.ormeci@carleton.ca Profesora Titular y Cátedra Jarislowsky en Agua y Salud, Departamento de Ingeniería Civil y Ambiental de la Uni-
versidad de Carleton, Ottawa ON, Canadá. Mercedes Arellano marell@ama.cu Investigadora Auxiliar, Comisión del Agua (CA); Academia
de Ciencias de Cuba (ACC); Agencia de Medio Ambiente, Ministerio de Ciencia, Tecnología y Medio Ambiente (CITMA). Mitchell kmitche3@
sgu.edu Doctor en Ciencias Biológicas, Universidad de San Jorge.
28 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES

Around the world, millions are deprived on ade- ural processes and/or anthropological sources.
quate drinking water supplies and/or are forced to There are more than 100,000 registered chemicals
consume potentially unsafe water which ultimate- that are used in manufacturing and commercial
ly adversely impacts on their health and wellbeing. products (Schwarzman and Wilson, 2009), many
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates of which ultimately find their ways to natural bod-
that 1.1 billion people lack access to sufficient wa- ies of water. As a result, several regulatory agencies
ter supplies and 2.6 billion lack adequate sanitation. have established limits as to how much of these
Further, as a consequence of having to consume wa- contaminants can be in potable water (Table 1).
ter of poor quality and inadequate quantity, WHO Chemical contaminants can be categorized as
reports that annually millions of deaths¬––especial- carcinogenic, genotoxic, and mutagenic based on
ly among children––are associated with water-re- their effect on human health. Carcinogenic contam-
lated diseases and infections (e.g. water-borne and inants cause cells to become cancerous and induce
vector-borne). Additionally, inadequate and poor the growth of cancerous cells. Genotoxic contami-
water quality supplies also affect crops production nants cause changes to the structure of the genet-
and can lead to food contamination when untreat- ic material of cells. Mutagenic contaminants induce
ed wastewater in used for irrigation, ultimately im- permanent and heritable changes to the genetic
pacting on the nutritional status of populations. material, and carcinogenic and genotoxic chemi-
The problems of poor drinking water quality cals are usually mutagenic as well. At low concen-
are not limited to only developing countries but are tration levels, it might take an extended period of
also experienced in several developed countries. time ranging from several years to several decades
For example, although many developed countries after exposure to these toxic contaminants before
have made substantial improvements in their drink- the first signs of these chronic health effects appear.
ing water treatment systems, emergent pathogens Acute health effects, which can be seen within a few
have caused major water-borne outbreaks among days, can also occur if the chemical contaminant
the populations they serve. In April 1993, the United concentration levels are very high.
States reported the largest document waterborne Naturally occurring contaminants are typically
outbreak which happened in Milwaukee city, Wis- released from geological formations and are typi-
consin (Dore 2015). In a more recent review of the cally found in higher concentrations in groundwa-
water supply system in the U.S., an investigation of ter compared to surface waters. Natural chemical
680,000 water quality and monitoring violations re- contaminants are mainly inorganic in origin and
corded by the Environmental Protection Agency re- include arsenic, fluoride, iron and manganese, ni-
vealed that as many as 63 million persons in the U.S. trates and nitrites, and radionuclides. Arsenic has
are exposed to potentially unsafe water. been shown to cause skin, lung, bladder, and liver
cancers, hyperkeratosis and peripheral vascular
disease in humans, and is a major cause of concern
Water contaminants and health in the Indian sub-continent, South America and
Far East (Fawell and Nieuwenhuijsen, 2003). High
The water that humans consume needs to be clean concentrations of fluoride can lead to skeletal de-
and free of both chemical and microbial contami- formity and dental fluorosis and is also a cause of
nants. The adverse health effects that can arise by significant morbidity in the Indian sub-continent,
drinking contaminated water range from acute Africa, and Far East (Fawell and Nieuwenhuijsen,
health effects such as acute gastrointestinal dis- 2003). Manganese and iron, abundant in many soils,
eases to long-term outcomes such as cancer and at lower concentrations cause discoloration, taste
physical and neurological developmental delays in and turbidity issues. Several epidemiological stud-
children. ies have linked manganese to adverse neurological
effects after long exposures to high concentrations,
Chemical contaminants however, this is currently debated as there are also
Chemical contaminants can be found in water sup- studies which showed no significant correlation be-
plies as a result of their introduction through nat- tween manganese in drinking water and neurolog-
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES 29

ical effects (WHO, 2017a). Nitrites cause methemo- levels, emerging contaminants have been shown
globinemia mainly in infants, commonly referred to have adverse impacts on aquatic life and human
to as blue baby syndrome, where the nitrite con- health (Sumpter and Johnson, 2005).
verts hemoglobin to methemoglobin and limits ox- Other sources of emerging contaminants in-
ygen transport. Nitrate and nitrite have been linked clude agricultural activities through the use of her-
to esophagus, stomach, bladder and colon cancers bicides and pesticides, which are carried by surface
(IARC, 2010). Radionuclides are naturally occurring runoff to water bodies. Mining activities and indus-
radioactive isotopes in the environment, and their trial waste are the main sources of heavy metals
presence varies from location to location. Radon is (e.g., Cr, Ni, Cu, Pb, Hg) and their toxic health effects
a decay product of radium, and among the radionu- on humans have been well-documented. Unlike or-
clides, it is the most important one and is suspect- ganic compounds, heavy metals do not go through
ed of causing lung cancer (EPA, 2010). Radon is an biological or chemical degradation, and their toxici-
odorless, colorless gas that can enter the indoor liv- ty, bioavailability, and transport in the environment
ing spaces from water taps and showering. Ninety are determined by the oxidation/reduction, precip-
percent of the exposure to radon in drinking water itation and adsorption reactions. There are well-es-
has been reported to be through inhalation and not tablished limits for the concentrations of heavy
ingestion (UNSCEAR, 2000). metals in drinking water (Table 1).
Naturally occurring organic chemicals may also High concentrations of lead in drinking wa-
threaten water quality, although there are relatively ter due to leaching of lead from plumbing and wa-
few of these contaminants compared to the natural- ter distributions systems remains a major public
ly occurring inorganic chemical contaminants. The health issue around the world. In the recent water
main naturally occurring organic contaminant in lead contamination case in Flint, Michigan, USA, in
surface waters is microcystin, which is a toxin pro- April 2014, consumers experienced very high lead
duced by cyanobacteria and can pose a major threat concentrations in their drinking water with at least
to the quality and safety of drinking and recreation- a quarter of the houses sampled exceeding the fed-
al waters during algal blooms. Algal blooms are eral limit of 15 ppb and some water samples mea-
primarily driven by nitrogen and phosphorus pol- suring as high as 13,200 ppb (Lazarus, 2016). This
lution, and their frequency, intensity, and duration lead to a doubling of the infants and children with
have increased in recent years due to the increased elevated blood lead levels (Hanna-Attisha et al.,
discharges of wastewaters into surface water bod- 2015).
ies, as well as due to the effects of climate change. In Chemical disinfectants used during water treat-
2014, 400,000 people were without usable water in ment processes can also lead to the formation of
Toledo, Ohio, after an algal bloom in Lake Erie, gen- chlorinated, iodinated, and nitrogenized disinfec-
erated high levels of toxins in water (Benedict et al., tion byproducts (DBPs). Trihalomethanes (THM),
2017). The threat from naturally occurring organic which are chlorinated DBPs, have been linked with
contaminants to water resources is much worse in bladder cancer at concentrations lower than what
developing countries where there is limited to no has been established in regulations (Villanueva et
wastewater treatment. al., 2004).
Anthropological sources of water contaminants Current regulations are currently structured to
include sewage and industrial wastewater dis- focus on individual chemicals and specific health-
charges, agricultural activities, mining operations, based targets. This approach, however, is not very
accidental spills and illegal dumps, as well as chem- realistic for emerging contaminants given that
icals from water treatment and distribution sys- these tend to be present at very low concentrations
tems. Domestic and industrial wastewaters are the in water and persons are exposed to not one but a
main sources of emerging contaminants, such as mixture of these chemicals for very long periods of
endocrine disrupting compounds, pharmaceuticals, time. There are major knowledge gaps in assessing
and personal care products, which exist in parts per the health impacts of chronic exposure to multiple
trillion (ppt) to parts per billion (ppb) levels in sur- chemicals and understanding what interactions oc-
face waters. Even at these minute concentration cur (WHO, 2017b). At present, there is no agreed-up-
30 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES

on risk assessment and management methodology al., 2010), with Europe reporting 136 similar out-
for chemical mixtures. The European Commission breaks during the period 2000-2007 (ENHIS, 2009).
(EU, 2012) has recommended prioritizing the risk Although it is expected that the occurrence of wa-
assessment of chemical mixtures based on several ter-borne viral outbreak should be more frequent
parameters including their chemical characteris- in middle and low-income countries, the absence
tics, prevalence, adverse health effects at the typical of resources and the techniques to detect viral con-
exposure levels, persistence and bioaccumulation taminants in water in these countries explains the
potential, and threshold concentrations. The WHO apparent dearth of such reports.
Guidelines for the Drinking Water Quality (WHO, For centuries, Vibrio cholera has caused lethal
2017a) currently recommends an additive approach epidemics with thousands of deaths all around the
for nitrate/nitrite and THMs and stipulates the world. Although great advances have been made in
need to consider the mixtures of pesticides that the area of improving water sanitation, low and lim-
have similar structures and modes of action, such ited resources in many countries, many times exac-
as atrazine and simazine. erbated by ongoing conflicts means that many are
Considering the very large number of chemical still being killed by this pathogen (Izurieta, 2006).
contaminants, the complexity of their chemistries Three of the six Escherichia coli strains (0127, 0148,
and interactions, the difficulties in measuring and and 0157) are of major importance as waterborne
studying their effects on humans and environment, pathogenic bacteria. Other bacteria such as Salmo-
the need for high-tech but high-cost treatment sys- nella spp., Shigella spp., and Campylobacter spp.
tems for their removal, the most effective approach have also been the causal pathogen in many water-
in managing chemical contaminants is to protect borne outbreaks.
drinking water sources, minimize or eliminate all Of increasing concern is the emergence of
sources of pollution and switch to less harmful new pathogenic bacteria which can be transmit-
chemical substitutes when possible. ted through water. Helicobacter pylori, the neces-
sary element in the pathogenesis of gastric cancer,
Biological contaminants has been found in drinking water, as well as oth-
Water and food are the two main routes of exposure er pathogens like Mycobacterium Avium Complex
for various gastrointestinal microorganisms whose (MAC) and Aeromonas hydrophyla. Standard labo-
reservoirs are humans, animals and/or the envi- ratory methods need to be updated in order to in-
ronment. All segments of the human population are troduce alternative bio-molecular and fluorescence
susceptible to water-borne pathogens, however, the methods to detect viable but non-cultivable bacte-
very young, elderly and immunosuppressed suffer ria in water (Cabral, 2010).
disproportionately the most severe consequences. The HIV/AIDS epidemic has brought to the fore
Microbial water contaminants can be broken the pathogenicity of parasites like Cryptosporidium
down into the following major groups: Viruses, Bac- spp. among the immunosuppressed, the young and
teria, Protozoa, Metazoan (helminths), and Algae the elderly. Toxigenic cyanobacteria have also been
(Table 2). Virus can infect all living organisms in- associated with eutrophication and massive human
cluding bacteria, plants, animals, and humans. The and animal intoxications (Tundisi, 1998). And of in-
most important viruses from a water contamina- creasing concern, even the long sought-after goal of
tion perspective are as follows: Rotaviruses, Astro- eradicating the Guinea worm (Dracunculus media-
virus, Norovirus, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis E, Coxsackie, nesis) by substantial improvements in improving
Enterovirus, Polioviruses, Adenoviruses, and Echo- the safety of drinking water may be slipping away
viruses. These viruses are primarily transmitted by due to the emergence of canine reservoirs (Cairn-
contaminated water via the fecal-oral route. cross, 2002).
While most human viral infections are asymp- Most recently, the emergence of Antibiotic Re-
tomatic or produce mild symptoms, moderate to sistant Microorganism (ARM) due to the heavy use
severe clinical cases can occur during outbreaks. of antibiotics in food-producing animals has led the
The United Sates reported 64 water-borne viral WHO to recommend that farmers and the food in-
outbreaks during the period 1971-2006 (Craun et dustry stop using antibiotics routinely to promote
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES 31

Table 1. Regulatory limits for chemicals in drinking water

Source: De Villanueva et al., 2014.


32 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES

growth and prevent disease in healthy animals stances which have been generated from different
(WHO, 2017c). Preliminary studies carried out in process. By and large, however, adequate invest-
Ecuador have revealed a 71.2% prevalence of colis- ments and technology transfer for water manage-
tin resistant E coli and 65.9% prevalence of extend- ment in developing countries has not occurred. The
ed-spectrum beta-lactamases (ESBL) producing re- high demographic growth experienced in most de-
sistant E coli in feces of chickens and pigs, and that veloping countries has served to further exacerbate
these high prevalences were associated with the this problem. In many developing countries, river
use of antibiotics in pig and chicken feeding formu- and lakes which serve as the primary sources for
las. Given that there are currently no restrictions drinking water are heavily polluted due to the wan-
of the disposal of animal bio solids into water bod- ton and indiscriminate disposal of domestic and in-
ies, these feces are being discharged in stream, riv- dustrial wastes. These practices persist in part due
ers and lakes. Therefore, it is plausible that highly to the lack of legal regulations and/or political un-
ARMs are already present in raw waters of Ecua- willingness to enforce laws and regulations that are
dor (Izurieta and Yamamoto, 2018) which can led to already on the books.
poor health outcomes when consumed by humans. In countries with limited financial resources the
pollution of key drinking water sources is usually
associated with the drainage of gray water flowing
Influence of Economic Conditions along ditches built close to the houses, the unavail-
ability of daily collection of solid wastes and the ef-
on water quality and health fects of wastes lixiviates. These problems are caused
Terrestrial waters can be considered as being part by the lack of sewerage systems, waste treatment
of productive processes, generating costs that are stations and water purification plants which meet
included in the financial balance (income, charges) internationally recognized water quality standards.
of these processes. This is why water management It is well known and widely disseminated that
(protection included) is considered in the econom- in many tropical countries rainwater accumulates
ic context. in soil depressions, vessels without covers or dis-
The current economic dimensions of water carded tires, thus becoming larvae repositories for
management had their origin at the end of past mosquitos such as the Aedes aegypti, the transmit-
century. Basically, economists have traditionally ter of the dengue disease.
viewed water as just one component in several pro- Investments made to protect a population’s
duction processes. However, other economists have drinking water can lead to many social benefits in-
noted that water is fundamentally a different type cluding a saving of scarce public sector´s financial
of resource. Aguilera-Klink (1995) points out that resources due to the reduction of water-related dis-
“water is more than a production factor. It is over- eases. According to the World Bank, losses in Gross
all a factor of social, economic and environmental Domestic Product in the African continent as a con-
cohesion.” Aguilera- Klink (2001) later stated that sequence of the malaria (2003) exceeded 12,000 mil-
“water can be seen from different perspectives: lion dollars (Larbi Bouguerra, 2007).
as a production element, as financial issue and as It is thus recommended that developing coun-
eco-social resource.” tries evaluate possible solutions and ways to sup-
The economy has a direct impact on several wa- ply water with the required quality, despite the fact
ter-related aspects, such as its quality, and therefor that the problems mentioned above are not solved
on its uses. When water quality is low, water-relat- and financial limitations do not allow to give them
ed diseases and illness appears. solution in a short time. The political will of govern-
Most developed countries have financial re- ments is important. It is necessary to quantify the
sources and requisite technologies to mitigate the costs, to establish priorities to give access to this
impacts of industrial development. These countries natural resource on the basis of social inclusion,
also have developed the necessary legal instru- prioritizing the most vulnerable communities who
ments and regulations which establish permissible have to least material and financial resources. In
limits for disposal of waste water and polluting sub- this way societies will be more likely attain human
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES 33

Table 2 Most important water-borne human pathogens


Agent Disease Reservoir
Rotaviruses Gastroenteritis Humans, Animals
Astrovirus Gastroenteritis and Acute Respiratory Infection Humans
Norovirus Gastroenteritis Humans
Hepatitis A Hepatitis Humans
Hepatitis E Hepatitis Humans, Animals
Gastroenteritis, Upper Acute Respiratory Infection, hand, foot,
Coxsackie viruses and mouth disease, meningitis, cardiac infection, and peripheral Humans
Viral neuropathy
Gastroenteritis and Upper Acute Respiratory Infection, hand, foot,
Enterovirus and mouth disease, cardiac infection, meningitis and peripheral Humans
neuropathy
Polioviruses Poliomyelitis Humans
Adenoviruses Gastroenteritis and Acute Respiratory Infection Humans
Gastroenteritis, Acute Respiratory Infection, meningitis, and
Echoviruses Humans
hepatitis
Campylobacter spp. Gastroenteritis Humans, Animals
Escherichia coli Gastroenteritis Humans, Animals
Helicobacter pylori Gastritis, Gastric cancer Humans
Legionella spp. Pneumonia, gastroenteritis Aquatic
Bacterial Leptospira spp. Mild fever with rash or Hemorrhagic fever Aquatic, Soil, Animals
Salmonella spp. Gastroenteritis Humans, Animals
Shigella spp. Gastroenteritis
Vibrio cholera Gastroenteritis with watery diarrhea Aquatic (estuaries)
Yersinia enterocolítica Gastroenteritis
Criptosporidium spp. Chronic diarrhea Humans, Animals
Giardia duodenalis Abdominal pain Humans, Animals
Protozoan Entamoeba Humans
Dysentery, Hepatic abscess
histolytica
Balantidium coli Humans, Animals
Schistosoma spp Intestinal, Hepatic and Urinary infections Humans, Aquatic
Metazoan Dracunculus Humans, Animals,
Painful papule in the skin, gastroenteritis
medinensis Aquatic
Algae Cianobacterias Intoxication Aquatic

habitats that are inclusive, secure, resilient and sus- those living within a specific region. A lack of safe
tainable, in harmony with the United Nations SDG drinking water to meet daily needs can have seri-
#11 by the year 2030. ous health consequences. Worldwide, over 2.8 bil-
lion persons around on every continent at least one
month out of every year does not have adequate
Water scarcity and health safe drinking water to consume. The problem of in-
adequate safe drinking water supplies is predicted
Water scarcity is the lack of sufficient, readily to get worse over the foreseeable future due to pop-
available water resources to meet the demands of ulation growth, increased demands especially from
34 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES

the agricultural sector, and climate change. the population. This, in turn, severely limits the op-
Insufficient water supplies to meet daily needs portunities and time women and children have to
has both immediate and distal impacts on human engage in other socially productive activities such
health and wellbeing. It is estimated that humans as small business enterprises, localized garden
require a minimum daily water intake that ranges farming, and schooling.
from 1.8 to 5 liters per capita per day (Gleick 1996). By far, the agricultural sector is currently larg-
These estimates, however, increase in warmer cli- est user of freshwater resources. The additional
mates, higher levels of physical activity and for demands this sector will place on water resourc-
sensitive sub-population such as pregnant and lac- es is predicted to further increase with population
tating women. Thus, the WHO recommends a mini- growth, the continued use of inefficient animal hus-
mum of 7.5 liters per capita per day to meet the re- bandry and crop irrigation techniques, and anthro-
quirements of most people under most conditions. pogenically driven climate changes.
Sufficient water is essential for proper human The International Water Management Institute
hygiene. If persons are required to walk farther (IWMI) projects that nearly 1 billion people may
than 1 kilometer or spend more than 30 minutes not have access to water by the year 2025. Further,
for water collection, they then may not collect suf- they predict that unless the issue of water scarci-
ficient water for proper hygiene (Gleick 1996). As a ty is appropriately addresses today, many countries
result, some have observed that many “waterborne” will soon face a series of impossible decisions when
diseases may be more accurately labeled as “wa- choices have to made on how to reduce the amount
ter-washed” diseases due to inadequate quantities of water used in agriculture that is demanding
of water being available for necessary human activ- more of it and transferring it to other competing
ities such as washing hands, food preparation, laun- users in the industrial and domestic sectors. There
dry, and washing cooking utensils (Bradley 1977). is therefore an urgent need for meaningful invest-
Each year, the WHO estimates that about 2.2 ments to be made today in water supply systems so
million persons die from diarrhea of which 90% as to ensure adequate supplies of high quality wa-
are children. Further, many more suffer debilitating ter is delivered to all, and this need must be clear-
and chronic health problems. Diarrheal and oth- ly articulated and acknowledged in all public health
er diseases caused or worsened by water scarcity policies.
have also been linked to other adverse health con-
ditions such as malnutrition, decreased food intake,
impaired nutrient absorption, and compromised Conclusions
immune systems (Rice et al. 2000; Stephenson 1999;
UN 2003). In addition to providing adequate supplies of water
Particularly in developing countries, as a result as of 2017 to all 7.5 billion inhabitants of this planet,
of water scarcity, many are forced to drink poor increasing attention will need to be directed at en-
quality water from untreated sources such are lo- suring that the quality of this water is high enough
cal streams or rivers, which are contaminated ei- to guarantee human health and wellbeing. This
ther chemically, microbial or both. Additionally, in- means significant and consistent resources will
adequate water supplies mean that sewage does need to be allocated to not only building new wa-
not easily flow, which then creates its own sequelae ter treatment and distribution systems, but also to-
of health-related problems and can exacerbate the wards their maintenance and upkeep as they wear
spread of vector-borne diseases such as malaria. and age over time. In the U.S, their Environmental
Water scarcity impacts human health in oth- Protection Agency estimates that local water sys-
er ways. For example, fetching water from distant tems will need to invest USD 384 billion in the com-
sites, a task that is usually borne solely by women ing decades to ensure that the water is of sufficient
and children, places additionally calorific burdens quality to be consumed.
on already malnourished women and children. Ad- It is well established that improving a commu-
ditionally, this necessary task exacts significant nity’s water supply, hygiene and sanitation leads to
time and effort from these vulnerable segments of measurable improvements in health. For example,
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES 35

the WHO has found that the incidence of diarrhea 507–528. DOI: 10.1128/CMR.00077-09.Vol. 23, No.
can be reduced by 26% simply by providing persons 3. 0893-8512/10/$12.00doi:10.1128/CMR.00077-
with clean water. 09 http://aquaticpath.phhp.ufl.edu/waterbiolo-
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50,000 Km³ fresh water globally available, due to Dore MH. (2015). Global Drinking Water Manage-
increasing anthropogenic polluting activities, only ment and Conservation, Springer Water, Spring-
about one-third can be used for human needs. Giv- er International Publishing Switzerland, DOI
en that clean water is essential to good health, pro- 10.1007/978-3-319-11032-5_2
tecting this diminishing and threatened resource European Environment and Health Information
will require concerted efforts by governments and System (ENHIS) (2009). Outbreaks of waterborne
other policy makers who manage and oversee the diseases. Fact sheet no. 1.1, December 2009 z Code:
use of this precious resource. RPG1_WatSan_E1. http://www.euro.who.int/__
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WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES 37

Biological Monitoring of Water Quality


in the Americas
Ernesto González (Venezuela) and Gabriel Roldán (Colombia)

The determination of water quality is often based on the evaluation of its physical (tempera-
ture, color, turbidity, transparency, total dissolved solids, suspended solids, color), chemical
(conductivity, pH, alkalinity, acidity, hardness, dissolved oxygen, oxygen demand, nitrogen
and phosphorus concentrations, chlorides, heavy metals, biocides, among others) and mi-
crobiological characteristics (presence of pathogenic bacteria, viruses, helminths and pro-
tozoa, among other considerations) (WHO, 2017). Although these parameters are accurate,
they provide partial, specific information. Accordingly, in recent years, the concept of wa-
ter quality has changed from a physical and chemical approach to one integrating all the
components of the ecosystem (Roldán & Ramírez, 2008). In fact, the European Parliament
Framework Guideline COM-97 has proposed establishing the ecological status of the system
studied through the use of biological, hydromorphological and physico-chemical indicators
as a measure of the quality of aquatic ecosystems.
The physical and chemical parameters useful for the evaluation of water quality are de-
termined by the presence of both organic and inorganic compounds, which may be in sus-
pended or dissolved form. Some of these compounds are toxic to the ecosystem, while oth-
ers serve as nutrients for organisms (Eletta & Adekola, 2005).
Aquatic ecosystems maintain an enormous diversity of organisms, as a result of which
impacts such as pollution induce changes in the structure of communities, the biological
function of aquatic systems and the body itself, affecting their life cycle, growth and its re-
productive condition (Vázquez Silva et al., 2006). For this reason, some organisms can pro-
vide information on physical and chemical changes in water, since over time they reveal
changes in the composition of the community (Laws, 1981). Thus, an aquatic ecosystem is a
functional system in which there is a cyclical exchange of matter and energy between living
organisms and the abiotic environment. Biology and chemistry are therefore closely related
and play complementary roles in the evaluation of natural and polluted waters.
Levels of impact can vary from one aquatic ecosystem to another, and it has been found
that there are groups of species whose presence in the ecosystem depends on the degree
and type of impact and contaminants (Tabash, 1988). In each region, some organisms have
a very broad range of tolerance to the environmental conditions that occur in the habitat,
depending largely on the degree of contamination at the site. It is also possible to identify
species that are the first to disappear due to the increase in alterations caused by human
activities (Vázquez Silva et al., 2006), either because of the inadequate water quality, habitat
degradation or a combination of these two factors, as a result of which accurate knowledge
must be obtained of the intolerant species found in each region.
For an organism to be considered a good indicator of water quality, it must be found in
an ecosystem with specific characteristics and its population must have a higher or slightly
similar percentage to the rest of the organisms with which it shares the same habitat (Roldán
& Ramírez, 2008). It has therefore been possible to identify groups of organisms that can be

Ernesto José González Rivas ernesto.gonzalez@ciens.ucv.ve Universidad Central de Venezuela (UCV),Facultad de Ciencias, Instituto de
Biología Experimental. Punto Nacional Focal del Programa de Aguas de IANAS. Roldán-Pérez groldan@une.net.co Miembro de Número y
Director de Publicaciones, AcademiaColombiana de Ciencias Exactas, Físicas y Naturales, Medellín, Antioquia.
38 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES

used as biological indicators of environmental im- water quality (Quirós, 2004). Among the structur-
pacts that affect the water quality of different eco- al changes produced by eutrophication is the dom-
systems, such as bacteria, periphyton, phytoplank- inance of the main community of primary pelagic
ton, macrophytes, benthic macroinvertebrates and producers of lakes and reservoirs, phytoplankton,
fish (Vázquez Silva et al., 2006). Although the bio- by cyanobacteria.
logical information produced by these bioindicator Bellinger & Sigee (2010) state that the detection
organisms does not replace physicochemical anal- and analysis of algae indicators provides a rapid as-
ysis, it can lower costs, which is why these studies sessment of trophic status and possible contamina-
are important for monitoring water quality (Chap- tion by human activities of freshwater bodies. They
man, 1996). therefore present what the indicator species of the
In the countries on the American continent, trophic state would be in mid-summer in temperate
there are numerous experiences related to the use lakes (Table 1).
of organisms to determine water quality, mainly The predominance of cyanobacteria in many
in surface sources. This chapter seeks to provide a mesotrophic and eutrophic lakes and reservoirs
modest overview of the experiences in the Ameri- can be explained by their ability to fix molecu-
can continent in cases related to the proliferation lar nitrogen (in the form of dissolved gas). At that
of certain groups of phytoplankton in lakes and res- time, nitrogen is usually the nutrient limiting pri-
ervoirs according to their degree of eutrophication mary productivity and cyanobacteria would have
and the use of macroinvertebrates as bioindicators competitive advantages in this situation (Pizzolón,
of river water quality. 1996). The dominance of cyanobacteria in these
lakes and reservoirs with high concentrations of
nutrients can also be explained by their high ca-
Eutrophication and phytoplankton pacity to absorb dissolved carbon dioxide, even at
very low concentrations. High pH values (basic)
Excessive enrichment with surface water nutri- also encourage the development of cyanobacteria,
ents, mainly in phosphorus (P) and nitrogen (N), due to their capacity to transform bicarbonate and
produces changes in the structure and function- carbonate ions into carbon dioxide. In fact, cyano-
ing of aquatic ecosystems and the deterioration of bacteria are the only microalgae that develop im-

Table 1. Phytoplankton species indicative of trophic status in temperate lakes in mid-summer


Type of lake Algae Indicators
Diatoms: Cyclotella comensis, Rhizosolenia spp.
Oligotrophic
Green algae: Staurodesmus spp.
Diatoms: Tabellaria flocculosa
Chrysophites: Dynobrion divergens, Mallomonas caudata
Mesotrophic Green algae: Sphaerocystis schroeteri, Dyctiosphaerium elegans, Cosmarium spp., Staurastrum spp.
Dinoflagellates: Ceratium hirundinella
Cyanobacteria: Gomphosphaeria spp.
Diatoms: Aulacoseira spp., Stephanodiscus rotula
Eutrophic Green algae: Eudorina spp., Pandorina morum, Volvox spp.
Cyanobacteria: Anabaena spp., Aphanizomenon flos-aquae, Microcystis aeruginosa
Diatoms: Stephanodiscus hantzschii
Hipereutrophic Green algae: Scenedesmus spp., Ankistrodesmus spp., Pediastrum spp.
Cyanobacteria: Aphanocapsa spp., Aphanothece spp., Synechococcus spp.
Source: Adapted from Bellinger & Sigee, 2010
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES 39

Table 2. Algae distribution by trophic state in lakes in the western region of Canada
Type of lake Algae Indicators
Diatoms: Asterionella formosa, Melosira islandica, Tabellaria fenestrata, Tabellaria flocculosa,
Oligotrophic Fragilaria capucina, Stephanodiscus niagarae, Staurastrum spp., Melosira granulata
Chrysophites: Dynobrion divergens
Diatoms: Fragilaria crotonensis
Green algae: Pediastrum boryanum, Pediastrum duplex
Mesotrophic Dinoflagellates: Ceratium hirundinella
Cyanobacteria: Coelosphaerium naegelianum, Anabaena spp., Aphanizomenon flos-aquae, Microcystis
aeruginosa
Eutrophic Cyanobacteria: Microcystis flos-aquae
Source: Adapted from Rawson, 1956.

portant biomasses in naturally alkaline and saline Macroinvertebrates as water


environments. Another type of factor involved in its
predominance is the low consumption rate by zoo-
quality bioindicators
plankton, either because they are unappetizing, or Aquatic macroinvertebrates are organisms that live
because they mechanically interfere with the pro- at the bottom of rivers and lakes, attached to aquat-
cess of their consumption, or because zooplankton ic vegetation, trunks and submerged rocks (Roldán,
stop feeding when there are toxic strains of cyano- 1988). Their populations are mainly composed of
bacteria in the environment. flatworms, insects, mollusks and crustaceans. They
According to Bellinger & Sigee (2010), in the are called macroinvertebrates, since they can be
mid-20th century, between 1945 and 1972, research- seen with the naked eye and range in size from 0,5
ers such as Thunmark, Nygaard and Stockner de- mm to approximately 5,0 mm. Since the composi-
veloped trophic status indexes by using large tax- tion of macroinvertebrate communities reflects the
onomic groups that were considered typical of quality of aquatic ecosystems, evaluation meth-
oligotrophic (particularly desmids, a group of green ods based on these organisms have been widely
algae) or eutrophic conditions (chlorococcal, cy- used for several decades as an integral part of wa-
anobacterial, euglenoid). Although these indices ter quality monitoring. European Union and North
provide useful information, they tend to lack en- American countries have been the leaders in this
vironmental resolution, since many kinds of algae field (Gaufin & Tarzwell, 1952; Hynes, 1959; Resh et
prove to be heterogeneous, containing typical lake al., 1995). Studies based on this methodology have
species, both oligotrophic and eutrophic. The im- permitted an awareness of the ecological status of
provement of sampling methods and the increase in their rivers and lakes, which have served as the ba-
taxonomic resolution enabled the development of sis for developing plans for their unexpected recov-
indices based on indicator species separated from ery in the past 20 years.
taxonomic groups. Based on the knowledge of the aquatic fauna
In the Americas, there have been experiences in of each country, this evaluation can be undertaken
the use of phytoplankton groups and species for the with various levels of accuracy. Thus, for example,
determination of the trophic status and quality of Germany, which has had a longer tradition in the
surface waters. In Canada, Rawson (1956) published knowledge of its aquatic flora and fauna, has adopt-
a list of dominant trophic status indicators for lakes ed the Saprobic method, which requires the iden-
in the western region, shown in Table 2. This list is tification of organisms up to the species level for
based on 25 years of observations. its application. Other countries, such as Belgium,
Other examples of studies of eutrophication and France, Great Britain, Italy, Portugal, Denmark, the
dominance of phytoplankton groups in the Ameri- Netherlands and Ireland, have adopted evaluation
cas are shown in Table 3. systems based on the level of orders, families and in
40 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES

Table 3. Examples of eutrophization and dominance of phytoplankton groups in the Americas


Country Eutrophication and phytoplankton References
Alcocer & Lugo (1995), Díaz-
Pardo et al. (1998), Quiroz
Replacement of green algae and diatoms by cyanobacteria,
Castelán et al. (2004), Bravo-
Mexico particularly Anabaena spp., Microcystis aeruginosa, Oscillatoria
Inclán et al. (2008), Oliva Martínez
spp. and Lyngbya spp. in various eutrophicated lakes.
et al. (2008), López-López et al.
(2010), entre otros.
Prevalence of cyanobacteria in Lake Amatitlán due to eutrophic
Basterrechea (1987)
conditions.
Guatemala
Blooms of the Lyngbya species complex on Lake Atitlán, as a result
Rejmánková et al. (2010)
of the change in land use and increase in nutrient concentration.
The mesotrophic Arenal Reservoir contains a varied
Jones et al. (1993), Umaña et al.
Costa Rica phytoplankton community dominated by green algae, some
(1999)
diatoms and the Microcystis spp. cyanobacterium.
Reservoirs with more signs of eutrophication (El Peñol, Prado and
Colombia Tominé) have a predominance of cyanobacteria, especially of the Roldán (2002)
genera Anabaena spp. and Oscillatoria spp.
Positive responses (increase) in the cyanobacterial families
Bolivia Oscillatoriaceae and Nostocaceae to enrichment with nutrients and Fontúrbel & Castaño-Piña (2011)
the pH increase in Lake Titicaca.
Microcystis spp. and Anabaena spp. cyanobacteria blooms in
reservoirs in the State of São Paulo, with severe eutrophication due Tundisi (1988)
to industrial and agricultural waste.
Brazil Predominance of toxic cyanobacteria, particularly the Planktothrix
agardhii (drought period) and Microcystis aeruginosa (rainy
Chellappa et al. (2001)
period) species in the Armando Ribeiro Gonçalves reservoir (Rio
Grande do Norte).
Phosphorus is the main determinant of phytoplankton biomass
Quirós (1991, 2000), Quirós et al.
Argentina in more than 100 Argentine reservoirs, and the increase in the
(2006)
frequency of cyanobacterial blooms in eutrophic lakes.
The rise in nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations has led to Mühlhauser & Vila (1987), Parra
an increase in phytoplankton biomass and the dominance of (1989), Parra et al. (2003),
Chile
cyanobacteria, generally with Anabaena spp., Microcystis spp. and Campos et al. (2005, 2007),
Oscillatoria spp. blooms. Almanza-Marroquín et al. (2016)
The process of eutrophication in large reservoirs (Salto
Chalar & Conde (2000), De León
Grande, Bonete, Baygorria and Palmar) has led to an intense
& Chalar (2003), Chalar et al.
growth of phytoplankton, with a predominance of diatoms and
(2002), Chalar (2006, 2009)
Uruguay cyanobacteria.
Predominance of cyanobacteria throughout the year and a marked
increase in the frequency and duration of microalgae blooms, RAP-AL (2010)
particularly of Microcystis aeruginosa in the Laguna del Sauce.
Reservoirs can be divided into three groups. Group 1: reservoirs
with low concentrations of P (<20μg/L) and dominated by
green algae. Groups 2 and 3: reservoirs with moderate to high
concentrations of P (>20μg/L). In group 2 there is a low nitrate/
Venezuela ammonium ratio, with high residence times of its waters and González & Quirós (2011)
a predominance of cyanobacteria, whereas in group 3, there
is a higher nitrate/ammonium ratio, short residence times of
its waters and phytoplankton is dominated by taxa other than
cyanobacteria.
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES 41

some cases genera. Its effectiveness has been prov- The saprobic approach. The term saprobic, used
en in a high percentage for “Rapid Ecosystem as- to refer to the capacity of certain organisms to
sessment,” in addition to the fact that it provides a live in certain levels of pollution, was coined in
considerable reduction in costs and time (De Pauw Germany by Kolkwitz & Marsson (1908, 1909).
& Hawkes, 1993; Roldán, 2003). They defined three levels of saprobity: a) poly-
saprobic zone, with predominantly reductive
processes, b) mesosaphobic zone, partially re-
Current state of knowledge of aquatic ductive with predominantly oxidative processes
and c) oligosaphobic zone, with exclusively oxi-
macroinvertebrates in the Americas dative processes.
The use of aquatic organisms as bioindicators of the The diversity approach. This includes three main
quality of aquatic ecosystems began in the Amer- components of natural communities: richness,
icas in the mid-20th century. Patrick (1949, 1950) uniformity and abundance, to describe the com-
developed biological methods to evaluate the eco- munity’s response to environmental quality. A
logical conditions of currents in North America, natural community is characterized by having
while Gaufin & Tarzwell (1952) proposed macroin- a great diversity of species and a low number
vertebrates as pollution indicators and Hynes (1959, of individuals per species, or a low number of
1963) proposed macroinvertebrates as water quali- species and many individuals per species. This
ty indicators. In Maryland (United States), Resh et situation is observed in nature in places such as
al. (1995) developed rapid water quality assessment the depths of large lakes and the sea, very high
methods, using macroinvertebrates as bioindica- mountains and extreme temperatures. Water
tors, assessing habitat conditions and predicting pollution produces a similar situation, causing
the expected fauna at a given site. certain very sensitive communities to disap-
Table 4 shows examples of the use of bioindi- pear and other more resistant communities to
cation in Latin America, based on pioneering work increase in number.
in Colombia. The biotic approach. This approach includes
the essential aspects of saprobity, combining a
quantitative measure of species diversity with
Use of aquatic macroinvertebrates qualitative information on the ecological sensi-
tivity of taxa of individuals in a simple numeri-
as water quality indicators cal expression. Beck (1955) proposed the biotic
Aquatic macroinvertebrates are regarded as the index in the United States based on the ratio be-
best water quality indicators because they are tween pollution intolerant and tolerant species;
abundant, widely distributed and easy to collect. values range between 0 and 10.
They are mostly sedentary and therefore reflect the
conditions of their habitat. They are relatively easy
to identify, reflect the effects of short-term environ- The BMWP method
mental variations, provide information to integrate
cumulative effects, have long life cycles (weeks The Biological Monitoring Working Party (BMWP)
and/or months), can be recognized at a glance and was established in England in 1970 as a quick, sim-
be cultivated in the laboratory, respond quickly to ple method to assess water quality using macroin-
environmental stressors and vary very little genet- vertebrates as bioindicators. The reasons for this
ically (Roldán, 1999, 2003). Moreover, macroinver- were mainly economic, and linked to the time tak-
tebrate communities display different responses to en to undertake the assessment. The method only
pollution. Accordingly, Metcalf (1989) distinguish- requires reaching the family level and the data is
es three main approaches to assess the response of qualitative (presence or absence). The score rang-
macroinvertebrate communities to pollution. These es from 1 to 10 according to the tolerance of the dif-
include: the saprobic, diversity and biotic method. ferent groups to organic contamination. The most
42 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES

Table 4. Examples of work on aquatic macroinvertebrates and bioindication in Latin America


Country Works on aquatic macroinvertebrates and bioindication References
Start of bioindication in Latin America. The first works were
Roldán et al. (1973); Pérez &
based on codes developed by researchers from the USA and
Roldán (1978)
Europe.
Colombia Publication of the Guide for the Study of Aquatic
Macroinvertebrates of the Department of Antioquia, which
Roldán (1988)
served as the basis for the beginning of knowledge on
macroinvertebrate communities in Latin America.
Publication of the book Diversity, conservation and use of
Central America freshwater macroinvertebrates of Mexico, Central America, Alonso et al. (2014)
Colombia, Cuba and Puerto Rico.
Publication of a complete series of works on
El Salvador Sermeño Chicas et al. (2010)
macroinvertebrates.
Costa Rica Publication of the first macroinvertebrates code Springer et al. (2010)
Publication of guide to macroinvertebrates as biological water
Nicaragua quality indicators in the Gil González River and the main Salvatierra (2012)
tributaries.
Guatemala Publication of status of aquatic macroinvertebrates Reyes (2013)
Publication of code for the identification of freshwater
Honduras García & Jiménez (2006)
macroinvertebrates
Presentation of report on the final sampling of
Dominican Republic Pérez (2015)
macroinvertebrates from the Ebano Verde region.
Proposal of protocol for the ecological quality of the Andean
Ecuador Acosta et al. (2009)
rivers (CERA) and its use in two basins in Ecuador and Peru.
Publication of studies on macroinvertebrates in Cajamarca
Peru Paredes et al. (2004)
and the Amazon.
Characterization of ecosystem services of wetlands, taking
Paraguay Espinosa et al. (2012)
aquatic macroinvertebrates into account.
Publication of a guide entitled Diagnosis of pollution in surface
Panama Cornejo et al. (2017)
streams of Panama using freshwater macroinvertebrates.
Use of methodology to evaluate water quality using the
Puerto Rico Gutiérrez-Fonseca et al. (2013)
BMWP-Cub.
Publication of book on benthic macroinvertebrates of South
Domínguez & Fernández (2009)
America.
Argentina
Publication of macroinvertebrate guidelines as water quality
Rocha (2004)
indicators.
Rincón (1995), Rivera &
Several experiences in the use of macroinvertebrates to Marrero (1995), Segnini (2003),
Venezuela determine water quality and draw up indexes of the biotic Segnini et al. (2009), Echevarría
integrity of rivers in various regions of the country. & Marrero (2012), Barrios et al.
(2015), entre otros
Publication of technical guide for the evaluation of waterbody
Bolivia Valencia (2014)
conditions using aquatic macroinvertebrates.
Brazil Publication of a book on the ecology of aquatic insects. Nessimian y Carvalho (1998)
Chile Study of the aquatic macroinvertebrates of the Limari basin. Carvacho (2012)
Publication of study on aquatic macro-vertebrates in riparian
Uruguay Morelli & Verdi (2014)
vegetation.
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES 43

sensitive families such as Perlidae and Oligoneu- On the basis of the knowledge that currently exists
riidae receive a score of 10. On the other hand, the in Colombia about the different groups of macroin-
most pollution-tolerant ones, for example, Tubifici- vertebrates up to the family level, he proposes to
dae, receive a score of 1.0 (Armitage et al., 1983). The use the BMWP/Col method, as a first approach to
sum of the scores of all families provides the total evaluating mountain aquatic ecosystems. Table 5
BMWP score. presents the families and their assessment accord-
Bioindication in Colombia dates back to the ing to their degree of adaptation to the various wa-
1970s with publications in Medellín (Roldán et al., ter qualities. Each region, in both Colombia and in
1973) constituting the first experiences in Latin Latin America, has made its own score assessments
America. Subsequently, Matthias & Moreno (1983) on the basis of their experiences (Zamora & Sarria,
undertook a physicochemical and biological study 2001, Sánchez-Herrera, 2005, Zúñiga, 2009, Springer
of the same river, using macroinvertebrates as wa- et al., 2010).
ter quality indicators. Bohórquez & Acuña (1984) The information available in Latin America on
undertook the first studies for the Bogotá savan- the taxonomy, ecology and bioindication of water
nah. Zúñiga et al. (1993) adapted this method for quality is not the same in all groups of macroinver-
some of the basins in Valle del Cauca. Reinoso tebrates. More information is available on Ephem-
(1999) and Reinoso et al. (2008) conducted a study eroptera, Plecoptera and Trichoptera than the oth-
of the Combeima River in the Department of Toli- er taxa. It is also important to expand the study of
ma. Zamora (2000) adapted the BMWP index to as- annelids, mollusks and diptera, especially of the
sess the quality of epicontinental waters in Colom- Chironomidae family. It is necessary to advance
bia. Roldán (2001) used this methodology for the the association of immature states and their corre-
Piedras Blancas basin in the Department of Antio- sponding winged forms, as well as between males
quia. Riss et al. (2002) establish biondication values and females, in order to achieve a rigorous taxo-
for the Bogotá Savannah. Roldán (2003) adapted the nomic determination. It is important to define a
BMWP system to evaluate water quality in Colom- unified methodology for the study of lentic ecosys-
bia through the use of aquatic macroinvertebrates. tems and large rivers.

Table 5. Scores of aquatic macroinvertebrate families for the BMWP/Col index


Families Scores
Anomalopsychidae, Atriplectididae, Blepharoceridae, Calamoceratidae, Ptilodactylidae, Chordodidae, Gomphidae,
10
Hidridae, Lampyridae, Lymnessiidae, Odontoceridae, Oligoneuriidae, Perlidae, Polythoridae, Psephenidae.
Ampullariidae, Dytiscidae, Ephemeridae, Euthyplociidae, Gyrinidae, Hydrobiosidae, Leptophlebiidae,
9
Philopotamidae, Polycentropodidae, Xiphocentronidae.
Gerridae, Hebridae, Helicopsychidae, Hydrobiidae, Leptoceridae, Lestidae, Palaemonidae, Pleidae,
8
Pseudothelpusidae, Saldidae, Simuliidae, Veliidae.
Baetidae, Caenidae, Calopterygidae, Coenagrionidae, Corixidae, Dixidae, Dryopidae, Glossosomatidae, Hyalellidae,
7
Hydroptilidae, Hydropsychidae, Leptohyphidae, Naucoridae, Notonectidae, Planariidae, Psychodidae, Scirtidae.
Aeshnidae, Ancylidae, Corydalidae, Elmidae, Libellulidae, Limnichidae, Lutrochidae, Megapodagrionidae, Sialidae,
6
Staphylinidae.
Belostomatidae, Gelastocoridae, Hydropsychidae, Mesoveliidae, Nepidae, Planorbiidae, Pyralidae, Tabanidae,
5
Thiaridae.
Chrysomelidae, Stratiomyidae, Haliplidae, Empididae, Dolicopodidae, Sphaeridae, Lymnaeidae, Hydraenidae,
4
Hydrometridae, Noteridae.
Ceratopogonidae, Glossiphoniidae, Cyclobdellidae, Hydrophilidae, Physidae, Tipulidae. 3
Culicidae, Chironomidae, Muscidae, Sciomyzidae. 2
Tubificidae 1
Source: Roldán, 2003.
44 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES

Immature forms of the entomofauna have a One of the problems in the use of bioindication
good potential as bioindicators, as well as being to measure water quality is the indiscriminate use of
a diverse, abundant community with a broad alti- biotic indices, in both lysic and lentic water ecosys-
tudinal distribution in water ecosystems. For ex- tems. These ecosystems have different hydrological
ample, in Colombia, the genus Anacroneuria (Ple- and ecological characteristics and a biota adapted to
coptera: Perlidae), was one of the groups with the the particular conditions of each of these environ-
greatest sensitivity to habitat degradation and the ments. The BMWP index is extremely popular and,
enrichment of the residual organic load (Roldán, although there are some adaptations of this biologi-
2003, Zúñiga, 2010). The most sensitive genera of cal parameter at the regional level, to ensure the va-
Ephemeroptera include Lachlania (Ologineurii- lidity of its application, it is important to take into
dae), Haplohyphes (Leptohyphidae), Mayobaetis, account the type of water bodies where it is used
Andesiops (Baetidae) Atopophlebia and Thraulodes (Zúñiga et al., 1993; Zamora, 2000, Roldán, 2003).
(Leptobhlebiidae), while Camelobaetidius, Baetodes
(Baetidae), Leptohyphes and Tricorythodes (Lepto- Final considerations
hyphidae) have a large environmental spectrum
(Zamora, 1996, Zúñiga et al., 1997, Roldán, 2003, Determining water quality can easily integrate tra-
Zúñiga & Cardona, 2009). The most sensitive gen- ditional biochemical indicators, the information
era of the order Trichoptera are Triplectides (Lep- corresponding to the biotic components of ecosys-
toceridae), Rhyacopsyche (Hydroptiliidae), Chimara tems, which provides a more holistic vision of the
(Philopotamidae), Marilia (Odontoceridae) and response to the impacts on them.
Phylloicus (Calamoceratidae). The genera Leptone- As has been seen, in the case of eutrophication,
ma (Hydropsychidae) and Atanatolica (Leptoceri- as in numerous studies on the temperate zones, in
dae) have a broad scope, with adaptations to eco- the Americas it has also been recorded that the in-
systems with incipient degradation (Zúñiga et al., crease in nutrient concentrations, mainly of phos-
1993, Zamora, 1996, Ballesteros et al., 1997, Roldán, phorus, leads to greater biomass of phytoplankton
2003, Guevara et al. , 2007a, b, Zúñiga & Cardona and a predominance of cyanobacteria. Likewise, in
2009, Forero et al., 2013, Forero & Reinoso, 2013, most cases, the dominant cyanobacterial species
Vásquez et al., 2013, 2014). correspond to the genera Microcystis spp., Anabaena
spp. and Planktothrix spp., with the risk that many of
their species have toxic strains, which turn them into
Standardization of work protocols potential health risks, particularly if the waterbodies
are used to supply water for human consumption.
In Latin America, it is necessary to work on the In the case of the use of aquatic macroinver-
standardization of sampling protocols, with an em- tebrates for bioindication, information on the tax-
phasis on large rivers and lentic water bodies, such onomy and ecology of some of the entomological
as wetlands or large lakes. This homogenization of groups with the greatest diversity, abundance and
field work protocols, counting organisms, labora- biomass remains limited. This situation applies to
tory analysis and the use of indices is essential to the Diptera, Odonata and Hemiptera orders, taxa
achieving consistent, comparable results and data which could provide valuable information from the
bases (Roldán et al., 2016). In this respect, in Colom- point of view of bioindication, especially for lentic
bia, Rueda-Delgado (2002) published the Manual of environments, where their abundance and diversi-
Methods in Limnology, in which he compiled the ty is usually greater than that which occurs in the
general information on the various study methods ecosystems of running water. On the other hand,
for the most important biota in aquatic environ- molluscs and annelids, whose abundance and bio-
ments. The Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and mass are very high in contaminated environments
Environmental Studies of Colombia (IDEAM) is cur- and enriched with organic matter, lack more de-
rently developing a methodology for evaluating wa- tailed taxonomic information, leading to general-
ter quality for Colombia through the use of aquatic izations and misinterpretations about their poten-
macroinvertebrates as bioindicators. tial as water quality bioindicators.
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES 45

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WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES 51

Use of New Methodologies in Monitoring


and Zoning Water Bodies in Argentina
César Luis García, Carlos Catalini and Carlos Marcelo García

In order to illustrate the use of new technologies, it was decided to take a real case that re-
cently took place in Argentina. During the month of April 2017, the city of Villa Carlos Paz,
in the Province of Córdoba, was forced to declare an Environmental Emergency due to the
advanced state of eutrophication of the San Roque Reservoir, which caused outcrops or cya-
nobacterial blooms of the genus Microcistys spp. (Figure 1). This problem, although not new
for this waterbody, has achieved an alarming periodicity, which implies a high potential de-
gree of danger for collective health.
Given the recurrent nature of the phenomenon and the impossibility of a short-term
solution (in the next few years), it is essential for the municipal government to at least mon-
itor and zone the water mirror and its main tributaries on a regular basis in order to zone
the various recreational activities developed in it, in order to prevent health problems for
both residents and tourists. In addition to being important for the tourist development of
Villa Carlos Paz, one should recall that this reservoir is the main source of drinking wa-
ter of the second largest population in Argentina (the city of Córdoba with over 1,300,000
inhabitants).
Achieving the objective of developing a system that will make it possible to monitor the
state of proliferation of algae and create alerts for severe events that occur as a result, an
interdisciplinary approach has been proposed, which will allow the creation of an Experi-
mental Monitoring and Remediation Laboratory that will make it possible to:
• Have information on the status of the reservoir and its tributaries by monitoring the
quality and quantity of water from Lake San Roque and its tributaries, as well as adapt-
ing methodologies to identify the surface cover of algae, using satellite images and Un-
manned Aerial Vehicles (UAV).
• Periodically zone the tributaries and the reservoir based on state indicators as a tool
for making quick decisions regarding their use for recreation or navigation. Issuance of
early warnings in extreme cases.
• Perform in-situ experimentation to evaluate the mitigation and remediation methods
suggested in the local system and determine the costs/benefits of the various mitiga-
tion alternatives and control bloom events, which are dangerous for society.

César Luis García CONICET, Córdoba, Argentina. Carlos Catalini Director of the Semi-Arid Region Center, INA, Argentina. Carlos Marcelo
García. Director of CETA, Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, Argentina.
52 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES

a. Detection of algal blooms


using remote sensors
It is possible to monitor algal blooms with biomass cesses that take place in waterbodies. This involves
measurement, examining the species present. One measuring a property of an object of interest from
of the indicators normally used is the concentra- a distance, such as a sensor on board a satellite or
tion of chlorophyll-a. Peak values of the latter for a UAV.
an oligotrophic lake are approximately 1 to 10 μg 1-1, Germán et al. (2017) have implemented the mon-
whereas in a eutrophic lake, it can reach 300 μg 1-1. itoring of algal blooms in the San Roque Reservoir
It has been shown by the specialized literature that through remote sensors, using images obtained
the temporal and spatial frequencies of conven- through the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectro-
tional water sampling programs are not sufficient radiomenter (MODIS) sensor on board the TERRA
to report changes in the biomass of phytoplankton, satellite, specifically the reflectance product at the
especially during bloom conditions, when the spa- top of the atmosphere and images of the Operation-
tial and temporal variability in the density of phyto- al Land Imager (OLI) sensor on board the Landsat
plankton is particularly high. This is where remote 8 satellite. The authors can observe various bloom
sensing is a fundamental tool for complementing events during the spring-summer 2016-2017 season,
traditional monitoring and understanding the pro- and measure their intensity (Figure 2).

Figure 1. Entry of the San Antonio River into the body of the San Roque Reservoir, Villa Carlos Paz
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES 53

Figure 2. Calculation of NDVI for different dates in the San Roque Reservoir

Source: Germán et al., 2017.

b. Estimation of surface velocities


with the LSPIV technique and using
UAV video
The presence of tracers in a waterbody, whether flu- national organizations represented by the Nation-
vial or lentic, such as a reservoir or lagoon, makes it al University of Córdoba and its Water Technology
possible to use the Particle Image Velocimetry (PIV) Center (CETA) and the National Water Institute and
procedure. However, because of considerations of its Center for the Semi-Arid Region (INA-CIRSA).
scale, this technique, commonly used in labora- The objective was to evaluate the efficiency of
tories combined with Unmanned Aerial Vehicles the diffuser system installed in reducing the eutro-
(UAV), makes it possible to use a similar method- phication of the lake, which causes the prolifera-
ology on surfaces with an approximate area of 5000 tion of algae in the water mirror. The system com-
m², which resulted in the Large-Scale PIV technique prises seven lines of pipes with small perforations,
or LSPIV-Large Scale Particle Image Velocimetry. through which air is injected. They are placed in
An example of the use of a combination of these the deepest zone, one meter away from the bot-
techniques with traditional methodologies is the tom. One of the lines is placed in the direction of the
monitoring of the air diffusers installed in the San gorge while the rest are directed towards the cen-
Roque Reservoir. Other participants included both tral area of the dike.
the Municipality of Villa Carlos Paz, the Province of In theory, it is hoped to increase the circulation
Córdoba through the Secretariat of Water Resourc- of water at the bottom of the lake by homogenizing
es, the River Patrol and other agencies, as well as the temperature, which is achieved by breaking the
54 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES

thermal stratification, which is considerably more tracers thrown onto the water body to determine
evident during the spring and summer months. the flow lines.
The mechanism, the only one of its kind used in
the country, was installed in 2008. This was the first References
time that monitoring the effectiveness of the sys-
tem was proposed. For this reason, technicians and Germán, A.; Ferral, A.; Romero Arijon, D.; and Ber-
municipal and provincial civil servants were joined nasconi, I. (2017). Detección y caracterización de
by CETA personnel and those from the areas of Lim- floraciones algales en el embalse San Roque a
nology and Water Quality, Geomorphology, togeth- partir de Sensores Remotos. XXVI Congreso Na-
er with INA-CIRSA support personnel, who used cional del Agua. September 20 to 23. Anales de
multi-parametric probes to measure the dissolved resúmenes de XVI CONAGUA. Volume I. 1st Edition.
oxygen, as well as UAV to track the biodegradable Editorial Universitas. ISBN 978-987-4029-23-2

Figure 3. Monitoring the effectiveness of aeration diffusers in the San Roque Reservoir - LSPIV
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | ARGENTINA 55

Argentina

Argentina, which faces a greater


challenge regarding water quality than
water shortage, must make a great
effort to achieve 100% safe water
coverage in the shortest possible
time and significantly increase urban
sanitation, including treatment prior to
discharge into the receiving bodies. It
is also necessary to increase controls to
minimize the generation of industrial
pollutants, reduce the use of harmful
herbicides and promote agricultural
reuse with treated residual liquids.

Potrerillos reservoir in Mendoza, Argentina © iStock


56 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | ARGENTINA

On the subject of water quality


in the Americas: Argentina
Luis E. Higa, Emilio J Lentini, José María Regueira, Melina Tobías and Raúl A. Lopardo

1. Introduction
1.1 General framework
In Argentina, the supply of surface water resources is estimated to have an average flow of
approximately 26,000 m³/s (INCyTH, 1994, Pochat, 2005). Since the population reported in
the 2010 National Population, Household and Housing Census (INDEC, 2012) was 40,117,096,
this would yield an annual amount of renewable water resources per person of approxi-
mately 20,500 m³/inhabitant/year, much higher than the 1,700 m³/inhabitant/year adopted
as water stress or the Falkenmark Index” (White, 2012).
However, this average availability does not accurately reflect the actual supply of sur-
face water in the country, since its geographic distribution is markedly unequal. Thus, 85%
of these water resources are located in the Plata Basin, whose surface area is only one third
of the mainland area (INCyTH, 1994, Rodríguez et al., 2008), while semi-arid and arid areas
occupy the remaining two thirds, with the arid zone representing half the total area (SDSy-
PA, 2002).
Moreover, in order to assess the actual availability, the very different population densi-
ty in the various river basins must be taken into account (INDEC, 2012). In this respect, key
Argentine provinces (such as Tucumán and Córdoba) have lower annual water availability
per inhabitant than the water stress limit. Accordingly, groundwater resources are crucial to
reducing this deficit, in the arid and semi-arid regions of the country,
In Argentina, the main consumption of water corresponds to irrigation, accounting for
nearly 70% of the total water extracted. The remainder is distributed among the other three
main uses: human, livestock and industrial consumption. Table 1 shows the estimated val-
ues of the consumption of the water extracted in the country between 1993 and 1997 (Cal-
cagno et al., 2000).

Luis E. Higa. lehiga@fibertel.com.ar National Institute of Water, Ezeiza. Emilio J Lentini. ejlentini@yahoo.com.ar Secretariat of
Infrastructure and Water Policy. José María Regueira. jmregueira@hotmail.com Secretariat of Infrastructure and Water Policy/Regional
UTN Buenos Aires. Melina Tobías. melina.tobias@gmail.com National Council of Scientific and Technical Research/ UBA Gino Germani
Research Institute. Raúl A. Lopardo. raulantoniolopardo@gmail.com Chapter Coordinator. National Academy of Exact, Physical and
Natural Sciences/UNLP.
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | ARGENTINA 57

Table 1. Water Extractions by use and source between 1993 and 1997
Surface water Ground water Total

Water uses 106 m3/year % of total 106 m3/year % of total 106 m3/year % of use
water used water used compared to total
extracted
Irrigation 18,000 75 6,000 25 24,000 71
Livestock 1,000 34 2,000 66 3,000 9
Municipal 3,500 78 1,000 22 4,500 13
Industrial 1,500 60 1,000 40 2,500 7
Total 24,000 --- 10,000 --- 34,000 100
Source: Calcagno et al., 2000.

The implementation of the National Water Plan clean, and the transportation and removal of excre-
(PNA), prepared in 2016 by the current Secretari- ta. According to the WHO (WHO, 2015), diarrheal
at of Water Infrastructure and Policy (formerly the diseases are the third leading cause of death among
Undersecretariat of Water Resources),1 is based the under 5s. It is estimated that over 340,000 of
on four central areas, namely: i) guaranteeing wa- them die annually due to diarrheal diseases result-
ter for production, ii) ensuring drinking water and ing from poor sanitation, amounting to nearly 1,000
sewerage, iii) adapting to climate extremes, and iv) children a day. It also attributes the fact that 161 mil-
creating matter and energy from biomass will sure- lion children suffer from stunting or chronic malnu-
ly modify these proportions (SIPH, 2017). trition to the lack of water, sanitation and hygiene.
According to the same report, in 2015, 842,000
1.2 Drinking water and sewerage annual deaths could have been prevented by im-
Basic sanitation (safe water and excreta collection proving water, sanitation and hygiene. It also notes
and treatment) is crucial to the health of the popu- that deficiencies in water, sewerage and hygiene
lation. Around the world, the number of people who contribute significantly to diseases such as schis-
lack access to safely managed drinking water totals tosomiasis, trachoma and helminthiases, affecting
2.1 billion, while those without adequate sanitation more than 1.5 billion people a year. It should be not-
services amount to 4.5 billion (WHO/UNICEF, 2017). ed that these alarming figures are updated WHO es-
Shortcomings in basic sanitation claim the lives of timates for 2015, in other words, at the end of the
over five million people annually. Moreover, it is es- period agreed by the countries that signed the Mil-
timated that approximately 2.3 billion people suffer lennium Development Goals.2
from water-borne diseases. Sixty per cent of deaths The crucial importance of water and sewerage in
of children under 5 due to parasitic and infectious human development has been recognized by the UN
diseases caused by the water they consume. through Resolution 58/217, which declares the peri-
Water for human consumption is not only es- od from 2005-2015 the International Decade for Ac-
sential as drinking water, but also for personal hy- tion: "Water for life”. Moreover, on July 28, 2010, at the
giene and food preparation. In addition, in the case United Nations Plenary Session, Resolution 64/292,
of dwellings that have a sanitation system with a recognized water and sewerage as a human right.
connection to mains sewerage or septic tank dis-
charge or cesspits, water is used for keeping toilets
2. The MDGs were set at the Millennium Summit in 2010, orga-
nized by the United Nations Assembly, where -among other
1. Through the Decree of the National Executive Power No. 174 of things- the vital importance of both services was recognized
March 2, 2018, the agency of the Undersecretariat of Water Re- and by 2015, countries pledged to halve the proportion of people
sources of the Nation was raised to the rank of Secretariat, and who lacked access to drinking water and basic sanitation or who
renamed as the Secretariat of Infrastructure and Water Policy. were unable to afford it.
58 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | ARGENTINA

Figure 1. Drinking water coverage by type of source (2010)


83%
78%
68%
Population (%)

16%
12% 12%
5% 4% 5%
1% 3% 1% 1% 1% 1% 2% 1% 1%

1991 2001 2010


Type of source, by year

Public grid (running water) Borehole with motor pump


Borehole with manual pump Well
Transportation by cistern Rainwater, river, canal, stream or ditch

Source: INDEC (2010).

In Argentina, the latest census data available most vulnerable social sectors having the lowest
(2010) show national water coverage by public net- coverage levels. This can be seen when comparing
work that reaches 82% of the population, and sew- the access to services of the population with Un-
erage coverage that reaches 40%. satisfied Basic Needs (UBN), compared to that of
Comparing these data with those from previous the rest of the population. Whereas in sectors with
censuses reveals a continuous increase in both ser- UBN, water from the network reaches 73% of the
vices, with significantly higher values for drinking population, in the other social sectors it amounts to
water than for sewerage (Bereciartúa, 2017). 85%. The same trend is observed in the case of sew-
The estimates made by the SIPH for 2015 show erage service, where coverage values range from
that 39.8 million people of the national total reside 31% to 56% (PNAPyS, 2017:22) (Figure 3).
in urban areas, 87% of which have access to water In order to offset the shortage of services facing
through the public network and 58% to sewers. the country, in 2016, the National Government de-
Although reliable statistics regarding the level of signed a National Plan for Drinking Water and Sew-
wastewater treatment are as yet unavailable, some erage (PNAPyS) (in line with the National Water
sources estimate that it is between 15% and 20% of Plan), whose goals for 2023 include achieving 100%
the collected water (PNAPyS, 2017:10). These data at coverage of water supplied by public network and
the national level show the current challenge facing 75% coverage in sewers for the urban population of
the country in terms of water and sanitation expan- the country. In order to meet the objectives of the
sion, a situation which, as shown in Figure 2, is ex- plan, in 2016 the National Directorate of Drinking
acerbated by disaggregating coverage in urban and Water and Sewerage was created within the Secre-
rural areas. tariat of Infrastructure and Water Policy, responsi-
Likewise, the data presented show that the cov- ble for monitoring the goals and systematizing rele-
erage disparity not only occurs in relation to the vant information on the sector (Figure 4).
area (urban/rural), but also in relation to the type Actions that the Directorate has undertaken
of service, with potable water coverage being con- during this period include the survey of the In-
siderably larger than that of sewers. On the other dicators and Performance Indexes for Water and
hand, accessibility to services is not distributed ho- Sewerage Providers, whose aim is to gather rele-
mogeneously among society as a whole, with the vant information from the providers linked to the
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | ARGENTINA 59

identification of the provider, data on the popula- 1.3 Water for irrigation
tion and accounts or connections, facilities and sup- As regards water for irrigation, according to the
plies, production, consumption, management indi- National Agricultural Census 2002 (INDEC, 2002),
cators (personnel, meters, unaccounted for water, the total area used for this purpose in the country
etc., wastewater treatment, service quality, custom- was 33,491,480 ha (approximately 19% of total ara-
er service and economic data (billing, costs, finan- ble land), only 1,355,601 ha of which were actually
cial statements). So far it has been possible to com- irrigated (approximately 4%), Mendoza being the
pile the corresponding information on nine of the province with the largest irrigated area, with a total
leading companies in the country, which account of 267,889 ha, equivalent to 19.8% of the total irri-
for 54% of the total population, covered at the na- gated area in the country.
tional level.

Figure 2. Drinking water coverage by type of source (2010)


49%
43%
34%
Population (%)

31%
25% 26%
20% 20%
15% 16%
12%

2%

1991 2001 2010


Type of source, by year

To public grid To septic tank and cesspit


Only to cesspit To hole, excavation in the ground, etc.

Source: INDEC (2010).

Figure 3. Inhabitants with and without potable water and sewerage service in urban and rural areas (2015)

90%
86% 87% 84%
79%

62%
58%
52% 54%

32%

8%
2%

Agglomerates Rest of urban Urban subtotal Concentrated rural Scattered rural National coverage

Drinking water Sewer

Source : PNAPyS, 2017.


60 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | ARGENTINA

At present, (FAO-PROSAP, 2015), it is estimat- collective supply projects and private systems, us-
ed that the irrigated area in the country amounts ing groundwater. The plan thereby seeks to modify
to 2.1 million hectares, 68% of which is located in the percentages of the type of water sources used,
arid and semi-arid regions. The remaining 32% cor- since 65% of the water for irrigation is currently
responds to the humid regions, where complemen- obtained from surface sources, and only 35% from
tary irrigation is undertaken. ground sources (National Water Policy and Feder-
As shown in the aforementioned Table 1, ap- al Directorate-SIPH, 2018a). In other words, greater
proximately 71% of the water extracted is used for pressure on available water resources is expected
irrigation. In 2014 (Aquastat, 2014), the percent- in the future.
age of cultivated area was approximately 14.5%, One way to mitigate this situation - which
of which 5.8% (in 2011) was under irrigation. The should be evaluated - is to reuse treated household
percentages of water sources used for irrigation wastewater for agricultural and forestry irriga-
are: surface water (57.6%), groundwater (17%) and tion (forestry) purposes. However, the positive im-
mixed water (25.4%). pacts (use of nutrients and organic matter by crops,
Since agriculture is the most important activi- which would reduce the use of chemical fertilizers)
ty in the country from an economic point of view, also entail potentially negative effects, such as the
involving extremely large areas of land, significant increase in salinity and toxicity in irrigation water,
volumes of water are required for irrigation. As this the increase in harmful ions in the soil matrix, and
requires increasingly intensive use of agrochemi- the need for pathogen control in crops.
cals (pesticides and fertilizers) to maximize yields, In this respect, the Guiding Principles of the
agricultural activity is one of the activities that pro- Water Policy of the Argentine Republic (COHIFE,
duces the greatest impact on water resources. 2003), in its Water and Environment section (Prin-
One should also mention the decision of the Na- ciple 11) under the title of Water Conservation and
tional State through the Secretariat of Agriculture, Reuse, state the following: “Conservation practices
Livestock and Fisheries (Ministry of Agribusiness) and the reuse of water provide opportunities for re-
to design the National Irrigation Plan of Argentina source saving that yield significant social, produc-
(PNR), to promote the fully sustainable develop- tive and environmental benefits, which must be
ment of irrigated agriculture throughout the coun- shared among the multiple users of this resource.
try. The goal is to double the current irrigated area Water recycling through the modification of indus-
to reach 4,000,000 hectares by 2030 and increase trial processes, the reduction of high consumption
the efficiency of water use for irrigation through of drinking water, the reuse of wastewater from ur-
ban and industrial centers in other activities, and
streamlining water consumption by the sector un-
der irrigation, constitute concurrent lines of action
Figure 4. Representativeness of the data in pursuit of the rational, sustainable use of this
obtained by the Indicators Guide. May 2018 resource”.
At present, the main experiences of treated
wastewater reuse occur in the province of Mendo-
za (Calcagno et al., 2000), the only province with a
specific regulation -Resolution No. 400/2003- for
the direct reuse of treated wastewater (General Ir-
rigation Department, 2003). The main treatment
plants in that province are those of Campo Espejo
and El Paramillo, which process nearly 80% of the
domestic wastewater treated in the province. Both
use stabilization pond systems.
Representativeness Rest of country
Approximately 140,000 m³/day (1.7 m³/s) are
treated at the Campo Espejo treatment plant, which
Source: DNAPyS (2018). are used to irrigate approximately 2,000 hectares
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | ARGENTINA 61

through direct reuse (Fasciolo et al., 1998) and in- 1. 4 Main causes of water quality problems
directly irrigate more than 10,000 hectares through Argentina has several problems related to the qual-
the Jocoli canal (Barbeito Anzorena, 2001). ity of surface and groundwater. In the case of sur-
The El Paramillo treatment plant treats approxi- face water, the main problems are associated with
mately 91,000 m³/day (1 m³/s), used to water rough- the discharge of domestic and industrial wastewa-
ly 1,800 ha in the summer (Álvarez et al., 2008). Ac- ter without proper treatment. The main pollutants
cording to this information (Fasciolo et al., 1998, found are: biodegradable organic matter, macro-
Barbeito Anzorena, 2001, Álvarez et al., 2008), taking nutrients, bacteria and other microorganisms, and
the total irrigated area in the province of Mendoza toxic organic and inorganic substances. In ground-
(INDEC, 2007), less than 2% of that area uses irriga- water, quality problems are mainly associated with
tion through the direct reuse of treated wastewater. pollutants of natural origin -mainly arsenic and flu-
It should be noted that Resolution No. 400/2003 oride- or anthropogenic contaminants -nitrates,
of the General Irrigation Department of the prov- faecal contaminants, pesticides and various tox-
ince of Mendoza, chapter 12 of which establishes the ic industrial sources (such as organochlorine sol-
Regulation of Special Restricted Crops Area (ACRE), vents, hydrocarbons and phenolic compounds).
determines the irrigation methods allowed within The main cases of anthropogenic pollution in
ACRE (by plots of land prepared for sowing with- the country are as follows:
out slopes, furrows without drainage at the bottom, • Pollution in major basins close to highly popu-
subsurface irrigation, localized irrigation) and ex- lated urban centers, such as: Matanza Riachue-
pressly prohibits irrigation by sprinkling, pivots or lo and Reconquista in Buenos Aires, Salí-Dulce
other similar methods that project effluent into the in the province of Tucumán, which also impacts
atmosphere. This Resolution also provides for com- on Santiago del Estero (Río Hondo Dam) and
plementary measures for the protection of workers San Antonio in the province of Córdoba (San
(use of personal protection elements) and consum- Roque Dam).
ers through health education campaigns, restrict- • Contamination of aquifers with nitrates due to
ing reuse to certain types of crops and only allow- the infiltration of nitrogenous compounds be-
ing them to be harvested four weeks after the last cause of inadequate excreta disposal, owing to
irrigation. the low coverage of the sewage network, inten-
Although much more limited, there are also sive livestock farming (feedlots) and the inade-
other experiences of reuse of treated wastewater in quate use of chemical fertilizers in agricultural
other provinces, such as Chubut, Córdoba, Neuquén activities.
and Río Negro. • Contamination of groundwater with fuels,
Argentina has very little experience of reusing caused by losses in storage tanks, as has hap-
treated sewage sludge. The most important of these pened in several points of the city of Buenos Ai-
is the production of compost in the treatment plant res and near the Ministro Pistarini - Ezeiza In-
in the tourist city of Bariloche, in the province of Río ternational Airport.
Negro. The regulations that apply are Resolution • Surface water contamination has also been re-
No. 410/2018 of the Ministry of Environment and ported in the northeast and other parts of the
Sustainable Development of the Nation (current- country due to deforestation processes to in-
ly Secretariat of Environment and Sustainable De- crease arable land, which increases the speed
velopment - SAyDS), which repeals Resolution No. of runoff and the dragging of surface material
97/2001 of the SAyDS and Resolution No. 264 / 2011 from the soil, causing its erosion and the great-
and Appendix I of the National Service of Health er contribution of solids to the waters.
and Agri-Food Quality (SENASA) of the Ministry
of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries of the Na- These problems are compounded by the lack of
tion (currently Ministry of Production and Labor), unified official information sources to monitor wa-
through its “Regulation for the registration of fer- ter quality nationwide. This is due to the lack of a
tilizers, amendments, substrates, conditioners, pro- single database that brings together measured con-
tectors and raw materials in Argentina”. centrations of the necessary parameters (TON, re-
62 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | ARGENTINA

active P, pH, conductivity and DO) in homogenous- On the other hand, Article 41 of the National
ly distributed sites of Argentina. In this line, since Constitution established various guarantees for the
2018, the Secretariat of Infrastructure and Water inhabitants, relating to the environment and nat-
Policy has complemented the activities of the Hy- ural resources; explaining that, “It is the responsi-
drological Network by incorporating the measure- bility of the Nation to issue the standards that con-
ment of water quality parameters: oxidizable total tain the minimum budgets of protection, and of the
nitrogen, nitrite nitrogen, ammonium nitrogen, re- provinces, to issue those required to complement
active phosphorus, pH, conductivity and dissolved them, without their altering local jurisdictions”.
oxygen (National Water Policy and Federal Coordi- It should be noted that, to date, there is no na-
nation-SIPH, 2018b). tional water law. Although several bills for nation-
al or federal water law have been submitted, they
1. 5 Objectives and scope of the chapter have not found the necessary support for their
The objectives of this chapter are to show the over- sanction and enacted. Thus, in December 2002, Law
all legal structure in Argentina for environmental No. 25688, known as the “Regime of Environmental
issues in general and water resources in particular, Management of Waters” was enacted, which estab-
monitoring tools and databases related to water re- lishes the creation, for interjurisdictional basins, of
sources, and the main pollutants and their effects water basin committees. However, its regulation is
on water and soil quality. still pending and it has received criticism because it
would take precedence over provincial powers not
delegated to the Nation. In any case, the technical
2. Water quality authorities groups in the national government are currently
working on the definition of the environmental wa-
and governance ter quality levels.
2.1 Legal framework The main organisms linked to water resource
Argentina Republic has a representative, republi- management at the national level are:
can and federal government, with the central gov- • Secretariat of Infrastructure and Water Policy
ernment being divided into three branches: execu- (SIPH) (Former Undersecretariat of Water Re-
tive, legislative and judicial. In accordance with the sources (SSRH), answerable to the Ministry of
principles, declarations and guarantees of the Na- the Interior, Public Works and Housing
tional Constitution, each province is governed by its • National Entity of Sewerage Water Works
own Constitution. The national territory comprises (ENOHSA)
the Federal Capital, established in the Autonomous • Secretariat of Environment and Sustainable
City of Buenos Aires and 23 provinces (INDEC, 2012). Development
The Constitution states that “the provinces re- • Federal Water Board (COHIFE)
tain all the power not delegated by this Constitu- • Federal Environment Board (COFEMA)
tion to the Federal Government, which they have • Interprovincial Basin Organizations
expressly reserved by special pacts at the time of • International Basin Organizations
their incorporation”. Article 124 of the constitution-
al reform of 1994 stipulated that “the original do- Nationwide, the agency responsible for this
main of the natural resources existing in its terri- sector is the Secretariat of Infrastructure and Wa-
tory corresponds to the provinces", so that they ter Policy (SIPH) within the Ministry of the Inte-
have the power to regulate the relations arising be- rior, Public Works and Housing. This entity is re-
tween their use, defense and conservation. Due to sponsible for intervening in the preparation and
the above, when water resources are shared by sev- implementation of the national water policy and
eral provinces, it is necessary to seek agreements the policy regarding public services for the supply
between the parties. This role is fulfilled by the Ba- of drinking water and sewerage. As mentioned ear-
sin Committees and the Interprovincial Basin Orga- ly, the new DNAPyS operates within the SIPH. At the
nizations (https://www.mininterior.gov.ar/obras- same time, the SIPH proposes the regulatory frame-
publicas/rh-cuencas.php). work for water resource management, as well as
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | ARGENTINA 63

the organization and strengthening of the drinking With regard to regulations for wastewater re-
water and sewerage sector, and links and coordi- use, including agricultural reuse, there is still no
nates the action of other jurisdictions and agencies regulation in the country that establishes the min-
in the provision and expansion of these services. imum budgets applicable to all jurisdictions. Al-
The ENOHSA, created in 1995, as a continuation though there are several projects under study in
of an existing body, is responsible for organizing the National Congress, they have yet to obtain the
and managing the implementation and instrumen- necessary consensus for their approval. (Source:
talization of infrastructure development programs http://www.hidricosargentina.gov.ar/politica_hid-
derived from the national policies for the sector, as rica.php?seccion=2020)
well as the financing allocated for the latter (wheth-
er national or international). 2.2. Monitoring and database
The Secretariat of Environment and Sustain- In relation to the databases linked to water re-
able Development is responsible for the National sources, within the scope of the SIPH, the Nation-
Directorate of Biodiversity and Water and Aquatic al Water Information System (SNIH) (https://www.
Resources, whose main water-related tasks includ-
ing the compilation of a list of wetlands nationwide,
drawing up a glacier inventory (Law 26639), safe- Figure 5. Map of the main basin organizations
guarding protected coastal areas, managing water in the country
basins and water quality data collection.
For its part, the Federal Water Council (CO-
HIFE) was formally constituted on March 27, 2003, 1
13
through the signing of a protocol by the provinces
and the nation (http://www.cohife.org.ar/Dfunda-
cionales.html). Its creation constituted a substan- 2
7
tial step towards integrated water resource man- 3
agement in the country. The first step has been the
establishment of the “Guiding Principles of Water
Policy” (COHIFE, 2003). Law 26438 has ratified the
Articles of Incorporation of COHIFE, its Organic 9
Charter and the minutes of extraordinary assem- 14
4
blies 1 and 2 of the aforementioned Council. 8
The Federal Environment Board (COFEMA) is
the highest environmental authority in the coun-
5
try. Formally created in 1990 (although the body 6
was only recognized by all the provinces in 1993),
it comprises representatives of the Secretariat of
Environment and Sustainable Development, the 11
provincial governments and the Autonomous City
12
of Buenos Aires. Its main task is to coordinate the
development of environmental policy among all 10
the provinces, and to establish and update the re-
quired levels of environmental quality in the vari-
ous environmental resources throughout the coun-
try, including water resources.
Lastly, in relation to interprovincial and interna-
tional watersheds, there are various types of agen-
cies responsible for their management: watershed
committees, authorities or working groups. Nation-
wide, there are 16 main organizations. Source: COHIFE.
64 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | ARGENTINA

mininterior.gov.ar/obras-publicas/rh-nac.php), province of Río Negro), Lácar lake, in San Martín de


has been created, whose objectives are to collect, Los Andes (in the province of Neuquén) and the Río
process and store the data obtained by the Nation- Hondo reservoir, in the province of Santiago del Es-
al Hydrological Network (RHN). Currently, the RHN tero. With respect to the importance of the problem
has 369 stations operated by third parties, most of in the aforementioned reservoir of the San Roque
which record hydrological and meteorological data dam, suffice it to say that it is the main source of
(https://www.mininterior.gov.ar/obras-publicas/ drinking water for the city of Córdoba, the second
red-hidrologica.php). most important city in Argentina, with more than
Currently, the National Water Institute (INA) is 1,300,000 inhabitants.
working with the SIPH to evaluate the possibility of
adding water quality parameter measurements to 3.1.1. Cyanobacteria
110 of the existing stations, such as pH, temperature, In recent years, Argentina has seen a series of toxi-
specific conductivity, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, ox- genic cyanobacterial blooms in various river sys-
idizable nitrogen and orthophosphate phosphorus. tems, such as the rivers Uruguay, Paraná and Limay,
Moreover, Resolution 249-E/2017 of the MAyDS and the reservoirs of Salto Grande, Río Tercero, Ya-
(former Ministry of Environment and Sustainable ciretá, San Roque Dam, Los Molinos Dam, Paso de
Development of the Nation, 2017. Actual Secretari- las Piedras Dam. Although Argentina lacks an in-
at of Environment and Sustainable Development) formation system on its impact on the health of the
recently created the Federal Environmental Con- exposed populations, it is known that all cyano-
trol Network and the National Network of Environ- bacteria blooms should in principle be regarded as
mental Laboratories, which have the support of the potentially toxic and, therefore, as a public health
United Nations Development Program (UNDP). problem. which requires actions to minimize their
negative effect on at-risk communities. Cyanobacte-
ria or blue-green algae belong to the oldest organ-
3. Main problems impacting isms on the planet and share characteristics with
other bacteria and eukaryotic algae, giving them
water quality in the country unique qualities in terms of physiology, tolerance
3.1 Eutrophication to extreme conditions and adaptive flexibility. Their
Eutrophication is one of the main problems affect- natural development has been modified by human
ing the water quality of Argentinian lakes and res- action, mainly due to the excessive contribution
ervoirs. In cases of concern at the national level, the of nutrients from sewage discharges into fresh-
phenomenon is mainly due to the discharge into water bodies, the increasing use of fertilizers and
these water bodies of untreated or inadequately river endication. This phenomenon has also been
treated domestic wastewater. The increase in bio- exacerbated by climate change, since the increase
logical productivity in this type of water bodies cre- in the temperatures of the water bodies favors the
ates problems in potabilization systems due to the development of the latter (cyanophytes) as a com-
need to use larger doses of coagulant-flocculants, petitively successful group against the rest of the
reducing the flow in filtering systems. Moreover, phytoplankton. The most frequent toxigenic cyano-
the growth of cyanophytes increases the risk due to bacteria usually produce several toxins which cause
the high concentrations of microcystins and other neurological, hepatic, dermal and/or respiratory
toxins produced by these organisms, making it even disorders in humans, both by ingestion, inhalation,
more difficult to purify them. and contact with water. There are several studies in
Two important case examples are the San Roque Argentina where microcystins (San Roque Lake and
dam reservoir in Villa Carlos Paz, in the province of Paso de las Piedras Dam) have been detected in all
Córdoba, and the Paso de las Piedras dam reservoir seasons, and even during the winter relatively high
in Bahía Blanca, in the province of Buenos Aires. concentrations were observed (Ruibal Conti, AL,
Other examples include the effects on major Guerrero JM, Regueira JM, 2005).
water bodies in areas of great tourist importance. Nevertheless, controlling drinking water sup-
For example: Nahuel Huapi lake, in Bariloche (in the ply sources to detect the presence of harmful cya-
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | ARGENTINA 65

nobacteria and their metabolites is not yet common Health Organization (WHO), in its Drinking Water
practice in Argentina, and counting cyanobacteria Quality Guide (third edition), recommends a guide-
and measuring toxin concentration in drinking wa- line value for arsenic of 0.01 mg/L, among other
ter quality standards has yet to be mandated. reasons, because the International Agency for Re-
The Ministry of Health of the Nation (2017a) has search on Cancer (IARC), which is part of the WHO,
convened a group of specialists to organize knowl- classifies arsenic as a human carcinogen (Group 1).
edge on the subject and provide the health team In Argentina, as well as in other countries,
with access to information. chronic arsenic poisoning is mainly associated with
the presence of this pollutant in relatively high con-
centrations in drinking water drawn from ground-
3.2 Natural contaminants water, its presence in these waters being mainly of
In Argentina, the main pollutants of natural origin natural origin.
are: arsenic, fluoride and boron. The first two are The consumption of arsenic waters leads to var-
mainly found in groundwater and boron in both ious manifestations of Chronic Regional Endemic
surface and groundwater. Of these three pollutants, Hydroarsenicism (HACRE), which in Argentina oc-
the greatest emphasis will be placed on arsenic due curs in an extensive region centered on the south-
to its importance in the country. east of the province of Córdoba, extending to Bue-
nos Aires, Santa Fe, Santiago del Estero, San Luis,
3.2.1. Arsenic Tucumán, La Pampa, Salta, Jujuy, Chaco and a few
On May 22, 2007, the Secretariat of Health Policies, other provinces. In Argentina, the disease was first
Regulation and Relations (which is part of the Minis- described in 1913 by Dr. Mario Goyenechea Over the
try of Health of the Nation) and the Ministry of Agri- years, the disease has received different names,
culture, Livestock, Fisheries and Food (which is part until in 1944, “HACRE” and Argentinian Regional
of the Ministry of Economy and Production of the Chronic Endemic Hydroarsenicism “HACREA” were
Nation) decided to modify articles 982 and 983 of the proposed, since in this country the disease has its
Argentine Food Code (Resolution MSyAS No 494/94) own characteristics, which distinguish it from sim-
on the physical, chemical and microbiological char- ilar diseases in other endemic areas of the world,
acteristics of drinking water and carbonated water, such as Mexico, Chile and Taiwan.
through Joint Resolution 68/2007 and 196/2007.The Although it is a well defined and well-described
aforementioned Joint Resolution established a con- clinical pathology, it is still at the stage of epidemi-
centration of 0.01 mg / l as the new maximum value ological evaluation in Argentina. In the Drinking
for arsenic, five times lower than the one valid un- Water Quality Guidelines, the WHO declared that
til then, which was 0.05 mg / l, establishing a term “... there may be an overestimation of the real risk
of five years for water suppliers to adapt to the new ...” in determining the carcinogenic risk of arsenic
limit. That deadline expired in May 2012. and encourages local studies to be conducted. The
That year, the Secretariat of Policies, Regulation WHO recognizes that in order for countries to es-
and Institutes of the Ministry of Health and the Sec- tablish their health priorities regarding drinking
retariat of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries is- water quality, they should take the following prior-
sued Joint Resolution N° 34/2012 and 50/2012 (B.O. ities into account:
02-16-12), extending the previous deadlines set until • Ensure an adequate supply of microbiological-
the results of the study are available: “Hydroarseni- ly safe water and maintain its acceptability to
cism and Basic Sanitation in Argentina - Basic Stud- deter consumers from consuming potentially
ies for the establishment of sanitary criteria and less healthy water.
priorities in Argentina,” the terms of which were • Control the main chemical pollutants recog-
drawn up within the ambit of the Undersecretariat nized as causing adverse health effects.
of Water Resources of the Ministry of Federal Plan- • Manage other chemical contaminants.
ning, Public Investment and Services. • The cost of modifying existing potabilization
The reason why the Argentine health authori- plants required to be able to comply with such
ties promoted this modification was that the World a stringent maximum value.
66 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | ARGENTINA

• The cost of the operation and maintenance of water, is 260 μg/l. In Argentina, for certain surface
new facilities. bodies of water in the Province of Salta, high boron
• The time required make the necessary concentrations attributable to natural geology have
investments. been reported. This is the case of the Guachipas Riv-
• The quality control system to ensure such low er (known as Las Conchas, in its southern section)
arsenic concentrations requires human re- and its main tributary system with a prediction of
sources, analytical equipment and laboratory water quality parameters with neural networks of
facilities unavailable in most small and medi- boron concentrations of over 10 mg/l.
um-sized populations.
3.2.3 Fluoride
In the month of March 2017, the call for tenders Fluoride is normally present in natural conditions
was launched for the "Contracting of consultancy in groundwater. Fluoride is an essential element,
work on hydroarsenicism and basic sanitation in from the point of view of human nutrition, since
Argentina", Development Program of the Provinc- it is an essential trace element for the formation
es of the Great North: Drinking Water and Sanita- of bones and teeth. Nevertheless, it is a highly tox-
tion Infrastructure - BID 2776/OC-AR loans, aimed ic element in which only the quantity of the doses
at consulting firms to work on basic studies for the consumed distinguishes beneficial from pernicious
establishment of sanitary criteria and priorities re- benefits. In Argentina, most of the water extracted
lated to hydroarsenicism, so that studies would be- from the subsoil comes from fine sediments of wind
gin in the coming months. origin, resulting from the Andean orogeny, rich in
volcanic glass and responsible for the high content
3.2.2 Boron of arsenic and fluorine, among other elements, in
The main natural sources of boron are a small num- surface and groundwater. The concentration of flu-
ber of borate (boron oxide) minerals, whose main oride in groundwater samples analyzed in the cen-
deposits of these minerals are found in the United tral zone of the province of Chaco ranges from 0.05
States (USA), Turkey, Chile, Bolivia and Argenti- to 4.2 mg/l (Osicka et al., 2002). The National Food
na, in addition to certain boron silicate minerals in Code establishes a maximum amount for fluoride
China and Russia. According to the Argentine reg- which occurs a result of the average temperature of
ulations, presented in the National Food Code, a the area, bearing in mind the daily consumption of
maximum level of boron of 0.5 mg/l is considered drinking water (Table 2).
admissible for drinking water.
Recent studies have increased knowledge of 3.3. Agrochemicals
the presence of boron in the northern area of Ar- In Argentina, the main economic activities are ag-
gentina. In 2006 and 2007, specialists from the three riculture and livestock raising. Argentina is the
countries comprising the Pilcomayo river basin de- world’s third largest soybean, fifth largest corn
cided to undertake intensive and extensive moni- and eleventh largest wheat producer. Accordingly,
toring in the basin, on a monthly and six-monthly it makes extremely intensive use of agrochemicals,
basis, respectively, agreeing on the analytical meth- particularly phytosanitary products.
odologies and the monitoring points in order to The authority that approves and regulates this
have reliable analytical data for its interpretation. type of substances is the National Service of Health
Although the data generated by the monitoring car- and Agri-Food Quality (SENASA), which is part of
ried out focus on heavy metals, high concentrations the Ministry of Agribusiness of the Nation, through
of boron dissolved in water, of geological origin Resolution SAGPyA 350/1999 and other comple-
with maximum and minimum values of between mentary regulations. The literature (Mazzarel-
974 and 235 μg/l respectively were observed (Cop- la, 2016) shows the classification of phytosanitary
po, Jakomin and Delrieux, 2017). products according to the controlling organism, the
The maximum level of boron in water intended chemical group of the active principle and acute
for human consumption, with conventional treat- toxicity (dangerousness). The national laws regu-
ment at the supply source, for the sample of filtered lating agrochemicals are:
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | ARGENTINA 67

Table 2. Maximum amount of fluorides based on the average temperature of the area
Average annual temperature Maximum annual temp Fluorine content limit Fluorine content limit

ºC ºC Lower (mg/l) Upper (mg/l)


10,0 12,0 0,9 1,7
12,1 14,6 0,8 1,5
14,7 17,6 0,8 1,3
17,7 21,4 0,7 1,2
21,5 26,2 0,7 1,0
26,3 32,6 0,6 0,8

• National Law N° 18073/1969 Prohibition of sub- Conversely, glyphosate and AMPA (amino meth-
stances for the treatment of natural or artificial yl phosphonic acid), which is its main degradation
meadows and certain livestock species. product, are mainly associated with the particulate
• National Law N° 18796/1970 Modification of material dragged to surface waters by runoff and
pesticide regime. sediments.
• National Law N° 20418/1973 Tolerance and ad- Lastly, in the Argentine Food Code (CAA 2012), 11
ministrative limits of pesticide residues. of the 26 regulated organic compounds, correspond
to phytosanitary products.
These laws mention pesticides that have been Despite the above, of the three most widely
banned nationally and internationally, such as or- used pesticides in the country, only 2,4 D has a limit
ganochlorine pesticides. It should be noted that, due of 100 μg/L. This list also fails to mention the prod-
to the relative age of these regulations, there is an ob- ucts obtained from degradation.
vious need to update them in order to incorporate A key contribution to the study of pesticides in
the pesticides currently used (INTA, 2015). the country is “Children and Environmental Risk
As mentioned earlier, since grain production in Argentina” undertaken by the Ombudsman and
is the main economic activity in the country, agro- UNDP UNICEF in 2010 (DPN, 2010).
chemical products are widely used to increase pro- The study seeks to estimate the risk of con-
ductivity. In a survey carried out in 2013 by the two tamination from pesticides for each department
main chambers that market these products (CASA- or municipality in the country on the basis of the
FE and CIAFA), a ranking of the 15 most used phy- construction of the Pesticide Pollution Index. The
tosanitary products was established. The three methodology used takes into account the planted
most commonly used ones were: glyphosate, 2,4 D area of every crop in every department, the packag-
and atrazine. Among them, glyphosate was by far es of agrochemicals used (herbicides, insecticides
the most widely used, accounting for 65% of the to- and fungicides), their application rates and toxicity,
tal volume. measured through oral LD50 in rats.
According to national specialists (INTA, 2015), in The methodology for calculating the Pesticide
Argentine soil, the leaching potential (the greater the Contamination Index (PCI) is a simplified version
potential, the greater the mobility) decreases as fol- of the Pesticide Contamination Risk indicator,3 de-
lows: imazapir> metribuzin> atrazine> glyphosate. veloped by the National Agricultural and Livestock
Regarding the frequency of detection of pesti- Management Program of INTA (Viglizzo, 2002).
cides in the country’s watersheds, the compound
that has been most frequently detected is atrazine,
3. INTA developed this indicator together with another 11, with
due to its intensive use (it is the third most wide- the aim of standardizing an agri-environmental system for mon-
ly used pesticide), mobility (potential for leaching) itoring plots of land. The original indicator also includes other
and persistence. factors related to the persistence and mobility of the compounds.
68 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | ARGENTINA

The data analysis shows that eleven depart- cals, are the main environmental problems associat-
ments in the country have high to very high PCI (ac- ed with irrigation, mainly observed in the arid and
counting for 19% of total PCI). At the same time, 73 semiarid regions of the country that account for two
departments (14%) have an average PCI. It is im- thirds of its total surface.
portant to note that the departments in these three In addition to the characteristics of soils, sali-
categories account for nearly 60% of the accumu- nization can be caused by the composition of irri-
lated PCI. The two departments with very high PCI gation water, the rate of application, the method of
values are Guaymallén and Maipú, both in the prov- irrigation used and the water table level.
ince of Mendoza. There, the large proportion of the In the arid and semi-arid regions under irriga-
area planted with vegetables (13 and 11% respec- tion, the main soil deterioration is due to saliniza-
tively) is crucial, since these are crops with an ex- tion, mainly because of the quality of the irrigation
tremely toxic pesticide package. Additionally, albeit water and the groundwater level. In contrast, in the
it to a lessers extent, the presence of pip fruit trees humid/semi-humid regions of the country, soil af-
also contributes to PCI. fectation is attributed to sodification (Sánchez et al.,
They are followed by Rawson (San Juan) and 2016). It should be noted that high sodium content
Florencio Varela (Buenos Aires) where vegetables in irrigation water or soil (sodification) and also the
also make the largest contribution to PCI, as in Poci- relatively low calcium content with respect to so-
to and Santa Lucia (San Juan) and La Plata and Es- dium are usually the main causes of drainage defi-
cobar (Buenos Aires). The same happens in Cór- ciencies, as infiltration decreases. Both phenomena
doba Capital and Gral. Pueyrredón (Buenos Aires), reduce crop yield.
although the presence of potatoes and soya in the Thirty years ago, INTA (INTA, 1986) reported
value of the index is also significant. In the case of that at the time, the total area irrigated in the coun-
Rosario alone, the toxicity contributed by the cul- try was 15,391,188 ha, 3.8% of which was affected by
tivation of soybean exceeds that provided by veg- salinity and 3.6% suffered from poor drainage. This
etables, due to the high percentage of area planted information was also presented by province in the
with this oilseed. same study.
If we observe the districts in the middle catego- A recent study by the same institution (Sánchez
ry (n=73), we find that soybean is the main crop in et al., 2016) determined that the percentage of irri-
the humid pampa, as well as in several departments gated area in Argentina affected by these phenom-
in the province of Chaco, where the contribution of ena is 23.5%, 11.0% of which is located in the NOA
toxicity by cotton is also significant. region, 28, 3% in the Cuyo region, 36% in the Patago-
Vegetables also play a key role in other parts of nia region and 27% in the Pampas and NEA regions.
the Buenos Aires conurbation (Moreno, Berazate- Taking into account the implementation of the
gui, Merlo and Marcos Paz), in Gral. Alvarado - Bue- National Irrigation Plan, promoted by the Argentini-
nos Aires Province and in departments from other an Government in 2015, whose objective is to achieve
provinces, such as Santa Fe Capital, El Carmen (Ju- four million irrigated hectares by the year 2030 (NAP,
juy), Lavalle (Corrientes), Colón (Córdoba), Chim- 2016), the current irrigated area would be doubled,
bas (San Juan), Yerba Buena (Tucumán), Leandro as a result of which soil deterioration will probably
L. Alem and Cainguas (Misiones) and Junín, San increase due to salinization and sodification.
Martín and Tupungato (Mendoza).
Some departments in La Pampa also make a 3.5 Wastewater
significant contribution to the PCI of forage crops, The volume of wastewater produced by the mu-
as well as pip fruits in Gral. Roca (Río Negro) and nicipal (urban and urban industry) and industrial
Tunuyán (Mendoza), and citrus fruits in San Pedro sectors (outside cities) is unavailable because there
(Buenos Aires) and Yerba Buena (Tucumán). are no centralized, updated databases recording
this type of information. The SPIDES database (Per-
3.4 Salinization manent Sanitation Information Service), operated
Salinization and sodification of soils, together with by the National Entity of Water Works of Sanitation
the contamination of soil and water by agrochemi- (ENOHSA), has not been available since 2005.
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | ARGENTINA 69

A preliminary estimate of the volume of munic- Figure 6. Resulting Pesticide Contamination Index
ipal wastewater discharged into the sewerage net-
works can be made by considering that, according
to the National Population, Household and Hous-
ing Census of 2010, the population amounted to
40,117,096. A total of 48.8% of private homes had
a sewer drain, there were 11,317,507 private homes,
12,171,675 households in which number of inhabi-
tants per household was 3.3 inhabitants while 12.2%
of households shared housing (INDEC, 2012).
By virtue of the above, adopting an average al-
location for the country of 0.3 m³/(inhab. day) and
a reduction factor of 0.8 (80% of the water supplied
and used is discharged into the sewage network),
the volume of wastewater discharged into the net-
work can be estimated at approximately 1,596 x 10⁶
m³/year (nearly one thousand six hundred million
cubic meters per year).
As mentioned earlier, information on the vol-
ume of treated domestic effluents, quantity and ca-
pacity of municipal wastewater treatment plants
and treatment technologies used is unavailable,
and there is no information on the status of exist-
ing facilities.
Information from 2000 indicates that only 10%
of the total volume of domestic effluents collected
by the sewerage systems was treated by a purifica-
tion system (Calcagno et al., 2000). According to the
IANAS text (Dagnino Pastore et al., 2012), on that date,
the percentage of this type of wastewater treated at
sewage treatment plants was in the order of 12%. Source: DPN (2010).
The National Directorate of Drinking Water
and Sewerage (DNAPyS) of the SIPH is preparing a
survey of sewage treatment plants for populations The second, financed by the loans in force through
with over 10,000 inhabitants, with the aim of de- the ENOHSA and PBA executing units, consists
signing policies and investment plans in the waste- of implementing the public works defined in the
water treatment sector that will make it possible to first stage.
promote efficiency in resource management at the The purification plant census that is current-
local level and the adequate allocation of resourc- ly being carried out by the National Directorate of
es at the national level, ensuring the greatest im- Drinking Water and Sanitation includes facilities
pact and sustainability of investments and the pro- that serve populations of over 10,000 inhabitants.
tection of the environment and public health, thus The information collected was provided by the pro-
fulfilling the goals established through the SDGs for vincial contact persons to the Secretariat of Infra-
this issue. structure and Water Policy (SIPH). To date there are
The project comprises two stages: the first, to 358 records, as shown in Table 3.
be financed by the TC, will consist of preparing a The main treatment systems identified were:
database and subsequently undertaking a gener- stabilization ponds (62%), activated sludge (16%)
al sectoral diagnosis to define a National Plan for and filter beds (8%). Figure 7 shows the corre-
the Rehabilitation of Wastewater Treatment Plants. sponding disaggregation.
70 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | ARGENTINA

There is very little information on the opera­­ting service (drinking water and sewerage), and thereby
status of all the plants registered. Table 4 shows meet the new requirements of the service ladders
the information obtained to date. proposed by the SDGs.
The systematization of the information request-
ed by the SIPH will make it possible to have greater 3.6 Enteropathogens and opportunistic
accuracy regarding the type of accessibility to each microorganisms in ambient water
Another important element to be highlighted, with-
in the pollution from untreated wastewater, con-
Table 3. Registered treatment plants by cerns the presence of enteropathogens (primary
province (as of May 2018) pathogens and opportunistic pathogens) -bacteria
Province Plants and viruses- and free-living opportunistic microor-
ganisms, which pose a risk to health human through
Buenos Aires 102
exposure to recreational waters and beach sands.
San Luis 50
The Ministry of Health has invited a group of spe-
Santa Fe 35 cialists to organize knowledge on the subject and
Mendoza 16 submit Guidelines for the Public Health Area (MSN,
Salta 16 2017b), providing information about the potential
Entre Ríos 15 health risks, due to the exposure of people to en-
Chaco 13 teropathogenic organisms (primary pathogens and
opportunistic pathogens) -bacteria and viruses-
Córdoba 13
and free-living opportunistic microorganisms pres-
Río Negro 13
ent in freshwater and marine waters, through pri-
Corrientes 11 mary contact of the whole body and in recreational
Neuquén 10 activities (as an extreme example: swimming, im-
Jujuy 9 mersion, ingestion), as well as contact with beach
Formosa 9 sands in Argentina.
Misiones 8
Tucumán 7
Figure 7. Type of treatment at plants surveyed.
Catamarca 6 May 2018 (%)
Santa Cruz 6
6%
Chubut 5 4% 16%
2%
La Pampa 4 2%
Santiago del Estero 4
8%
La Rioja 3
Source: DNAPyS (2018).

Table 4. Status of Registered Sewerage


Plants (as of May 2018)
Status Plantas
Good 39 62%

Average 30
Poor 28
Activated sludge Lagoons
N/A 1
Filter bed Compact plant
S/D 260
Sedimentation Others
Total 358
Source: DNAPyS (2018). Source: DNAPyS (2018).
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | ARGENTINA 71

3.7 Deforestation
Forests provide valuable services such as ensuring mainly promoted by the advance of the agricultural
the regular flow of water in rainy areas, helping to frontier. This process has triggered major territori-
offset the destructive effects of floods and drought al conflicts that increased the concern and interest
that occur as a result of treefelling. When forest cov- in conserving the natural and cultural assets asso-
er is lost, water flows more quickly into streams, ciated with these forests.
leaving agricultural fields exposed to the possible The Chaco Seco ecoregion has an area of 787,000
erosion of productive soils. Thus, cropfields deteri- km² and includes areas of Northwest Argentina
orate and the population must invest in imported (62% of the total ecoregion), Western Paraguay
fertilizers or cut down more forest areas. (22%) and Southeast Bolivia (16%). The climate is
Deforestation is one of the main ecological semi-arid and seasonal, with high temperatures in
problems humanity faces, since it causes the trans- summer and low temperatures in winter. Precipi-
formation of forested territories as a result of man's tation amounts to 400 annual mm in the central
actions. One of the main causes of deforestation is portion and 1000 mm in the East and West ends,
the advance of the agricultural frontier. This trans- and is concentrated in the summer period. The pre-
formation affects the natural dynamics of eco- dominant natural vegetation is open forest.
systems at different scales, both local and global, This region possesses high natural biodiversity
directly and indirectly affecting water quality by in- coexisting with various cultures. Approximately 7.5
corporating sediments in riverbeds. In recent years, million people live in the Chaco Seco, where aborig-
the advance of the agricultural frontier has replaced inal and creole communities reside, mainly engag-
large areas of native forest, with the Parque Ch- ing in a subsistence economy that includes family
aqueño, Selva Misionera and Selva Tucumano Bo- farming, extensive grazing, hunting and gathering.
liviana regions being the most affected. In addition
to agricultural crops, forest plantations have also
increased their area mainly in the provinces of En- 4. Conclusions
tre Ríos, Corrientes and Misiones. In Argentina, the
soyization process did not take place in the prov- This chapter has considered the main conclusions
ince of Misiones, where deforestation occurred lat- and actions regarded as a priority for preserving
er. Colonization occurred with the aim of populat- water resources (both in quantity and quality) and
ing the province and consolidating the borders of improving the quality of life of the population.
the country, initially through the exploitation of • The main sources of anthropogenic pollution,
forest resources by selective felling and the cultiva- both surface and groundwater, are domestic
tion of yerba mate. Moreover, the existence of large and industrial waste liquids and those pro-
areas with high productivity for agricultural activ- duced by agricultural-livestock activity.
ities, such as the Pampas region, delayed the devel- • The most important pollutants produced by
opment of the latter in regions suitable for different human activities are: organic matter, microor-
uses, such as the case of Misiones with a clear forest ganisms, macronutrients, pesticides and heavy
vocation (Guerrero Borges, 2012). metals.
Recent studies have been carried out jointly by • The main pollutants of natural origin are arse-
the Regional Analysis and Remote Sensing Labora- nic, fluoride and boron. Arsenic and fluoride
tory (LART) of the Faculty of Agronomy of the Uni- are present in groundwater, and boron in sur-
versity of Buenos Aires (FAUBA), the National In- face and groundwater.
stitute of Agricultural Technology (INTA) and the • Considering their health importance, observed
Agro-forestry Network Chaco Argentina (Redaf), concentrations and territorial extension, arse-
with the aim of providing up-to-date, accessible and nic is the most important pollutant of the three.
spatially explicit information about the clearings
that occurred in the Chaco ecoregion. The results of Taking into account these aspects, which are
these studies show that deforestation rates in this highlighted and described in this chapter, the fol-
region are among the highest in the world and are lowing actions should be prioritized:
72 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | ARGENTINA

• Achieve 100% safe water coverage. use of substances used as raw materials) and the
• Significantly increase sewerage network cov- minimization of water use in processes should
erage, including treatment prior to discharge be promoted.
into receiving bodies. These treatment systems • According to the specialized national agency
should include the treatment and disposal of (INTA, 2015), Argentina is one of the most ineffi-
the generated sludge and, when appropriate, cient countries in the use of herbicides per ton
the removal of nitrogen and/or phosphorus. of grain produced (approximately one tonne of
• With regard to arsenic, the study on “Hy- grains per kilogram of herbicide, compared to
droarsenicism and Basic Sanitation” should seven tons in the USA). Using a larger amount
be implemented in such a way that the health of herbicides, without increasing productivity,
authorities have the necessary information to will negatively impact the environment in gen-
be able to determine the maximum admissi- eral and water resources in particular.
ble concentration of total arsenic in the water • In order to preserve surface and groundwater
distributed by the network in the country for sources, it is necessary to leverage the nutri-
a certain level of acceptable risk, and how this ents and organic matter present and use it as
should progress to achieve the set limit. a disposal method, and to evaluate and pro-
• As for the pollutants generated in industrial ac- mote irrigation (agricultural reuse) with treat-
tivities, minimizing the generation of contami- ed wastewater.
nants (for example, through the recovery and re-

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WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | BOLIVIA 75

Bolivia

The quality of drinking water in Bolivia


varies greatly, as reflected in the six
physiographic provinces in the country.
Due to the considerable socio-economic
and cultural differences, water quality
is analyzed in three areas: urban, which
refers to large cities, intermediate cities,
and rural, with small, scattered villages
and communities. The Authority for
the Supervision and Social Control of
Drinking Water and Basic Sanitation
is the official inspection entity that
enforces water quality rules and
regulations. These are not always
complied with, leading to limited results
and varying drinking water quality.

Sajama National Park, with the Parinacota volcano and the Pomerape in the background, Bolivia, © iStock
76 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | BOLIVIA

Drinking Water Quality in Bolivia


Fernando Urquidi-Barrau and Carlos D. España Vásquez

Abstract
The quality of drinking water in Bolivia varies greatly, as reflected in the six physiographic
provinces in the country. At the same time, due to the considerable socio-economic and cul-
tural differences, water quality must also be analyzed in three spheres: urban, correspond-
ing to major cities (Central Axis), intermediate cities, and rural, with agricultural communi-
ties and small, scattered populations. Drinking water quality is also closely related to local
sanitation and the care and protection of water sources. There is a problematic - and unre-
solved - cycle with wastewater discharges and their treatment in all three areas.
Providing quality water suitable for human consumption is one of the tasks of the gov-
ernment. The state faces the challenge of balancing the supply and demand of water re-
sources, an especially critical challenge due to the overwhelming population increase of
certain cities as a result of internal migration in the quest for better life prospects.
The Authority for the Control and Social Control of Drinking Water and Basic Sanitation
(AAPS) is the body that monitors the quality of water for human consumption and sewer-
age. This authority states that efforts are being made to achieve the objective of effective
control of drinking water quality in the country through the enforcement of rules and regu-
lations. Unfortunately, they are not always fully enforced in practice.

1. Water availability in Bolivia


It is important to consider the enormous variation in water availability throughout the
country. According to the national average, there is an abundant availability of water flow
but, due to its unequal distribution, there are many challenges both in regions where scar-
city is evident and in others where there are frequent floods in the rainy season. In fact, the
four macro-basins in Bolivia show major differences in rainfall: whereas the Amazon Rain-
forest receives 1,814 mm/year, the Rio de la Plata Macro-basin receives 854 mm/year, the
Endorheic Rainfall has an average of 421 mm/year while the smallest of the four, the Pacific
Macro-basin, receives an average of just 59.1 mm/year (Urquidi, 2015). Accordingly this pos-
es challenges for water governance.
These hydrological conditions create a higher proportion of surface water use for hu-
man consumption, although groundwater use for the same purpose has also increased. In
any case, both surface and groundwater require periodic, sustained monitoring and mea-

Fernando Urquidi-Barrau ferurquidi@gmail.com Chapter Coordinator. Ph.D., Geological Engineer, Member and Vice President of the
National Academy of Bolivia. Focal Point of the IANAS Program for Bolivia. Carlos D. España Vásquez Dipl. Eng, Civil Engineer - Health
Professor and Researcher at the Institute of Health and Environmental Engineering of the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés, La Paz - Bolivia.
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | BOLIVIA 77

surement to control their quantity and, above all, Each physiographic province has specific char-
their quality to prevent possible negative effects on acteristics regarding the availability of the quantity
the health of the population and the environment. and quality of water in the sources (data obtained
There is a growing consensus that the best way from the Surface Water Balance of Bolivia, 1992).
to guarantee water suitable for human consump- However, information on water quality is almost
tion is the protection and control of water sources. non-existent or unpublished.
To prevent adjacent contamination points, atten-
tion should not only be paid to the point where the I. Physiographic Province of the
extraction of surface or underground water is car- Western Andean Cordillera
ried out, but also to protecting the micro-basin, the This province, with an approximate area of 43,000
recharge area and the catchment area of the water km², covers a strip encompassing the entire bor-
collection work (see Figure 1). der with Chile and part of the southern border with
In this context, the detection of possible con- Peru. It has desert climate conditions, meaning that
tamination sources is more visible and evident it is the least populated area, with limited agricul-
in surface waters, making it possible to take pre- tural development. It has an orographic difference
ventive or corrective measures. Conversely, in the from 3,900 to over 4,500 meters above sea level
case of groundwater, contamination advances in- (masl), with annual precipitation of less than 200
visibly and studies are required to determine its mm. It has a specific flow rate of 0 to 10 lt.s-1.Km-2.
source and characteristics. Likewise, decontam-
ination processes require long-term actions that
may even force a local source of water supply to be Figure 1. Map of normal precipitation and EPSA
abandoned. areas by category
In the past five years (2013-2018), the drinking
water and sewerage and health sectors have seen
the need to protect water resources and health by
controlling the quality of drinking water and its
sanitation, and wastewater quality, through ade-
quate treatment oriented mainly towards the reuse
of water for agricultural purposes.
As can be seen in Figure 2, Bolivia has extremely
varied relief and an enormous diversity of eco-sys-
tems that have allowed the division of large areas
or physiographic provinces, with a specific hydrolo-
gy and hydrogeology, which will be briefly analyzed
below. This figure also shows the nine departmen-
tal capitals of Bolivia.
From west to east, these are the areas compris-
ing the physiographic provinces:

I. Physiographic Province of the Western Andean


Cordillera
II. Physiographic Province of the Bolivian
Altiplano
III. Physiographic Province of the Eastern Andean
Cordillera
IV. Physiographic Sub-Andean Province
V. Physiographic Province of the Chaco - Benianas
Plains
VI. Physiographic Province of the Brazilian Shield
78 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | BOLIVIA

Most of the inhabitants of this physiograph- two large, spectacular salt flats: Uyuni and Coipa-
ic province are supplied with water through shal- sa. These astonishing natural features developed in
low artesian wells dug or built in or around their several lacustrine episodes related to major climate
properties. Another source of water are the high al- changes that occurred from the Lower Pleistocene
titude wetlands that store non-saline groundwater to the Current Quaternary (Argollo & Mourguiart,
and are also used to feed and provide water to their 1995:360).
herds of camelids (llamas and alpacas). Water pol- The province is approximately 1,000 km long
lution is almost non-existent and limited to former and 120 km wide, with an estimated area of 120,000
mining works. km². Annual precipitation varies from less than
200 to 800 mm, with a clear downward trend from
II. Physiographic Province North to South, as a result of which the climate be-
of the Bolivian Altiplano comes more arid and salinization more intense
This physiographic province is an intermontane, (Cardozo, A. et. al., 2004). The Altiplano is subject to
endorheic basin located at 3,680 and 4,000 meters the influence of warm air masses from the Amazon
above sea level and between the two eastern and basin and cold air masses from the south, which in
western Andean Cordilleras. The main hydrological winter and part of autumn cause cold waves with
components, Lake Titicaca, Poopó and Uru Uru, are the condensation of the little humidity that exists. It
connected by the Desaguadero River. Lake Titica- has a specific flow rate of 0 to 10 lt.s-1.Km-2.
ca is a large freshwater lake in the North Altiplano Water quality in the Bolivian Altiplano is ex-
and the other two are saltwater lakes in the south. tremely variable and has clearly differentiated
They are complemented, at the southern end, by problems. For example, in the North, thanks to Lake
Titicaca, there are no hydrological problems, except
for the eutrophication of algae in the bay of Puno
(Peru), caused by effluent from untreated waste-
Figure 2. Map of physiographic zones of Bolivia water from that city and, to a lesser extent, in the
smaller city of Copacabana (Bolivia). At the same
time, the surface waters of the Bolivian Altiplano
rivers are unsuitable for human consumption be-
cause of their high content of heavy metals and nat-
ural contamination by arsenic and boron (INTESCA,
AIC & CNR, 1993).
The Northern Altiplano is, to a certain extent
densely populated; with many smaller towns and
cities around Lake Titicaca and along the roads be-
tween the cities of El Alto and Patacamaya. There
are also important towns in the Central Altipla-
no with several smaller cities and many smaller,
less populated towns. Several mining camps and
the capital city of Oruro supply their drinking wa-
ter needs through groundwater. The Southern Al-
tiplano is the least populated region of the coun-
try, and the driest and most arid with less than 100
mm/year of rainfall. Sometimes, it does not receive
any rain throughout the year. Lake Poopó has high
contamination of 25,000 mg/l of salinity and a high
heavy metal content derived from tailings and mine
tailings discarded many years ago by state and pri-
vate mining.
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | BOLIVIA 79

III. Physiographic Province of Photograph 1a. Contamination from mining


the Eastern Andean Cordillera waste in the town of Poopó
This physiographic province consists of Andean
massifs with heights from 2,000 to more than 4,500
meters above sea level and covers an approximate
area of 240,000 Km². It has an annual rainfall of 500
to 2,000 mm and a specific flow rate of 50 lt.s-1.Km-
2. Five departmental capitals are located in this
province, as well as several large and medium-sized
cities. The traditional oxides and sulfides mining in-
dustry is located in this province and surface flows
are highly contaminated by the passive and mining
waste from tailings, tailings and others left by the
industry (see Photographs 1a and 1b).
A large percentage of the Bolivian population
live in the Physiographic Province of the Eastern
Andean Cordillera, which is why it has the highest
anthropic contamination. However, river pollution
is partly compounded by its rapid descent into the
plains and high solar radiation due to the height.
The main problem is that these waters are used un-
treated in irrigation projects involving agricultural
plots of vegetables and legumes, as well as in the
water supply consumed as drinking water in the
small towns downstream. Photograph 1b. Showing visible contamination in the
city of Potosí, towards the Cerro Rico de Potosí
IV. Physiographic Sub-Andean Province
This is a strip with an approximate area of 120,000
Km² and an average width of 100 km between the
Eastern Andean Cordillera and the Chaco Beniana
Plain, with mountains ranging from 500 to 4,000
meters above sea level. It has between 500 and
3,000 mm of rainfall per year and a specific flow
rate of 0 to 50 lt.s-1.Km-2. The quality of the water
ranges from mediocre to good, and it receives wa-
ter from the thaws and rains from the eastern flank
of the Central and Eastern Andean Cordillera. The
capital Sucre and various other large and medi-
um-sized cities located in this province are supplied
with surface and groundwater of varying quality, al-
though none of it is completely potable.

V. Physiographic Province of ous areas at a constant height of between 115 and


the Chaco - Benianas Plains 250 meters above sea level. The south sector is be-
This province has an approximate area of 462,000 tween 250 and 1,000 meters above sea level. Annual
km² and can be divided into two sectors: the north, precipitation in the north sector varies from 1,600
with approximately 323,000 Km² and the south with to 5,000 mm, and in the South sector from 600 to
approximately 139,000 Km². The north sector has 1,500 mm, and is highly influenced by hot air mass-
almost flat orography with low altitude mountain- es from the Amazon basin. The specific flow in the
80 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | BOLIVIA

north is from 10 to 50 lt.s-1.Km-2 and in the south for agriculture and the livestock industry. The ex-
from 0 to 10 lt.s-1.Km-2. ception is the city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, which
This province is home to the Bolivian Amazon, has good groundwater suitable for drinking, de-
a region of worldwide interest, because it contains spite being hard water, that supplies a population
the largest tropical forest and the greatest biolog- of over one million inhabitants.
ical diversity on earth. Hydrographically it covers Pollution in the north of the province is largely
the Amazon Macro Basin in Bolivia with its basins, due to the complex environmental and social prob-
sub-basins and micro-basins. lems of the middle and lower basins of Arroyo Bay.
The population of this province depends on ri- Deforestation in the upper and middle watershed
parian water (without quality control) and rainfall has caused the loss of more than half the forest cov-
er of the Arroyo Bay springs. This has facilitated the
erosion, sedimentation and clogging of streams, af-
fecting the quality and quantity of water available
Photograph 2. Typical clothes washing on to the population in the capital city of Cobija (Fun-
the banks of the Beni River dación Natura Bolivia, 2010). Contamination is also
caused by the illegal exploitation of gold with the
use of mercury, which is found in rivers and is ex-
tremely difficult to prevent and eliminate.

VI. Physiographic Province of the Brazilian Shield


This large area covers the entire region of the
border with Brazil. It has an approximate area of
198,000 Km² and an orography ranging from 115
to 250 meters above sea level. Rainfall varies from
1,200 to 1,700 mm per year and its specific flow is
from 0 to 20 l. Its limited population is supplied by
the numerous river courses that have problems due
to the pollution of the waters of the rivers from the
cities and Andean population upstream. It has a
high risk in terms of health, including malaria, yel-
low fever and other diseases caused by mosquito
bites, as well as those related to ingestion.
Photograph 3. Means of transport in the Mamoré river In the south of the province, the morphology
consists of faulted blocks with gentle slopes. Hy-
drologically, this area is highly influenced by the Tu-
cavaca Valley through which the Santa Cruz-Puer-
to Suárez Railroad runs, and is home to the cities
of San José de Chiquitos and Roboré (Precambrian
Project, 1994).

2. Importance of water
quality as a human right
In July 2010, the United Nations General Assembly
issued Resolution A/RES/64/292 officially recog-
nizing, for the first time ever, the human right to
water and sanitation, emphasizing that both are es-
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | BOLIVIA 81

sential and fundamental needs for the healthy sur- threat to the health of the population, and results in
vival of mankind. At the same time, the Plurination- considerable rates of waterborne diseases with sta-
al State of Bolivia, Article 16 of the Second Chapter tistical under-recording. Despite this reality, cover-
of the new Political Constitution, issued on Sep- age has improved and slowly increased in the past
tember 25, 2009, states: “I. Everyone has the right to 15 years thanks to state investments and important
water and food”. “II. The State has the obligation to international assistance in the sector.
guarantee food security through a healthy, adequate Political and social factors have contributed to
and sufficient diet, for the entire population”. On the the weakening of institutions and drinking water
basis of these two postulates, the state promotes service providers, as a result of which they fail to
access to drinking water and its sanitation as an es- offer optimal drinking water supply service in the
sential right of Bolivians. nine departments and, above, in areas with inter-
However, the population of the Plurination- mediate cities and rural communities. It is import-
al State of Bolivia has not optimized the supply of ant to note that during this same period of time,
drinking water, including its quality with bacte- Bolivia has experienced the failure of two privat-
riological safety, particularly in the rural context. izations with concessions to foreign private compa-
Drinking water and sanitation coverage in the coun- nies and the almost immediate return to the state
try has steadily increased, but has not kept pace of these water supply and sanitation services in two
with the growing demand. The quality of drinking major departmental capitals: Cochabamba and La
water nationwide is low, even compared to the cur- Paz. However, in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, the second
rent South American context. most important city in the country, the distribution
The low coverage and/or lack of sewerage and and private sanitation system is run by a private co-
wastewater treatment plants means that waste- operative with relative success, compared with the
water is discharged into waterbodies with surface systems in other capital and medium-sized cities.
flows. This is reflected in the presence of contam- The overriding national concern continues to
inated water in almost all cities and most Bolivian be the supply of water required for various uses,
rural towns. This great deficiency is a permanent while overlooking the quality of the latter. In rural

Figura 3. Evaluación global del suministro de agua y saneamiento


Agricultural Industrial Domestic
100%

80%

60%

40%

20%

0%
Bolivia

Peru

Guatemala

Mexico

Argentina

Cuba

Dominican Rep.

Chile

Brazil

Costa Rica

Venezuela

Colombia

United States

Canada

South America

The Americas

The World

Developed countries

Developing countries

Fuente: Global Water Supply and Sanitation Assesment. Report 2012


82 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | BOLIVIA

areas, the greatest use of water is for agriculture 3. Entities responsible for the drinking
(see Figure 3), particularly irrigation (see Table
1). However, this use fails to consider the quality or
water and sanitation sector
the degree of contamination of the water, focusing The responsibility and formulation of policies for
solely on its chemical condition, in other words, en- the water and sanitation sector corresponds to the
suring that it is not salt water (chlorinated and/or Ministry of Environment and Water (MMAyA) com-
sulfated-sodic). For agriculture, surface water from prising three Vice Ministries:
rivers, lagoons and lakes is used. • Vice Ministry of Drinking Water and Basic San-
Water pollution is a major environmental prob- itation (VAPSB)
lem because it negatively affects the quality of life • Vice Ministry for the Environment and Climate
of the population. In Bolivia, many rivers and lakes, Change (VMACC)
as well as groundwater near major cities, are begin- • Vice Ministry for Water Resources and Irriga-
ning to become contaminated. Much of the distri- tion (VRHR)
bution system for drinking water and wastewater
disposal is old and in a state of disrepair. The main Unfortunately, MMAyA ministers changed fre-
barriers or gaps are related to the poor sewage sys- quently, in some cases in less than a year. The min-
tem and wastewater treatment coverage. Garbage isterial structure also underwent frequent changes.
and wastewater are therefore released into the The MMAyA, through the Vice Ministry of Drink-
flows and bodies of surface water, with little or no ing Water and Basic Sanitation (VAPSB), is respon-
treatment, causing their contamination. This caus- sible for the formulation and updating of the water
es permanent problems of maintenance and opera- resources policy, as well as designing and imple-
tion for service operators and municipalities. menting programmatic approaches, projects and
An additional task is the implementation of ex- actions to guarantee that the water supplied to the
creta and solid waste management. Despite the im- Bolivian population is sufficient and suitable for hu-
provement of the urban solid waste collection sys- man consumption.
tem, sanitary and storm sewer systems are affected The VRHR is responsible for contributing to the
by the presence of waste mainly dumped in periph- development and implementation of plans, poli-
eral areas. This is the leading cause of pollution in the cies and norms related to Integral Watershed Man-
country followed by mining and industrial activity. agement. The Authority for the Oversight and So-
This affects both the water courses and surface stor- cial Control of Drinking Water and Basic Sanitation
age, and the aquifers used to supply drinking water. (AAPS) and the Autonomous Territorial Entities

Table 1. Irrigation systems, users and irrigated area by Department


Systems Users Irrigated Area
Province
Number % Families % Hectares %
Chuquisaca 678 14.5 17,718 8.1 21,168 9.4
Cochabamba 1,035 21.9 81,025 37.6 87,534 38.6
La Paz 961 20.3 54,818 25.1 35,993 15.9
Oruro 372 6.6 9,934 4.6 14,039 6.2
Potosí 956 20.2 31,940 14.7 16,240 7.2
Santa Cruz 232 4.9 5,865 2,6 15,239 6.7
Tarija 550 11.6 15,975 7.3 36,351 16.0
Total 4,724 100.0 217,975 100.0 226,564 100.0
Source: MAGDR – DGSR – PRONAR, 2015.
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | BOLIVIA 83

Table 2. Categorization of EPSA by town


Categories Population Territoriality
EPSA Main axis of the country (cities of La Paz, Cochabamba
More than 500,000 inhabitants
Category A and Santa Cruz De La Sierra)
EPSA
Between 50,000 and 500,000 inhabitants Capital cities, peri-urban areas and other major cities
Category B
EPSA
Between 10,000 and 50,000 inhabitants Intermediate cities
Category C
EPSA
Between 2,000 and 10,000 inhabitants Cities and/or Minor Municipalities
Category D
Less than 10,000 inhabitants or EPSA of Native
Registers Rural area
Indigenous Peasant Constitution
Source: Indicadores de Desempeño de las EPSA reguladas, 2016.

(ETA) are the entities responsible for coordinating dance with the population and territoriality criteria
compliance with these policies. detailed in Table 2.
The national regulation and technical assistance Table 3 shows the type of administration of the
of the Providers of Drinking Water and Sanitation EPSAs that operate in the nine departmental capi-
Services (EPSA) is the responsibility of a major gov- tal cities, which the APPS authorized to grant rights
ernment agency: the AAPS. This agency grants li- of use and exploitation of water sources for human
censes for services and establishes the principles to consumption and the provision of drinking water
control service quality, based on the Guidelines for and basic sanitation services. Water supply sources
the Quality of Potable Water. In turn, it sets service are also given.
prices, rates and fees. The AAPS also receives com- The granting of Licenses and Registries by the
plaints and comments from users. APPS nationwide seeks to guarantee legal securi-
The Drinking Water Quality Guidelines, super- ty in the provision of drinking water and sanitation
vised by the AAPS, are documents that are avail- services as well as water sources, infrastructure, in-
able to the public, which highlight the link between vestments, including the area of service provision.
water quality and health. They state that “diseas- The Vice Ministry of Environment, Biodiversi-
es related to water pollution have a great impact ty, Climate Change and Forest Management and De-
on the health of people. Measures designed to im- velopment ((VMABCCGDF) is the authority respon-
prove drinking water quality provide significant sible for ensuring the sustainable use of natural
health benefits”. Bolivia draws up its rules and reg- resources, including the protection and conserva-
ulations, on the basis of the PAHO-WHO Guide- tion of the environment, and regulating, prevent-
lines, and contextualizes them with the standards ing and controlling the contamination of surface
and norms of neighboring countries and countries and groundwater by agrochemicals and indus-
that have socio-economic characteristics similar to trial waste, limiting deforestation and promoting
those of its population and the same geographical reforestation.
characteristics (ecological macro-floors: Cordil- Bolivia has a Sectoral Development Plan for Ba-
lera Andina, Bolivian Altiplano, Valleys and Llano sic Sanitation (PSD-SB) that is the sectoral instru-
Chaco-Amazónico). ment within the National Development Plan (PND).
Another of the powers of the APPS is to grant It was updated for the period 2011-2015 and, since
rights of use and exploitation of water sources for then, this plan has been continued. The PSD-SB es-
human consumption and the provision of drink- tablishes and lays the foundations for a commit-
ing water and basic sanitation services to the EPSA, ment between the national, departmental and lo-
under the Licenses and Registries regime in accor- cal levels to achieve a substantial increase in access
84 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | BOLIVIA

to sustainable drinking water and basic sanitation tation of community development, hygiene promo-
services, within the framework of Integrated Wa- tion and technical assistance to service providers.
ter Resource Management (IWRM) in the country. In the MMAyA, there is an Executing Unit (EMA-
It also establishes the participatory and responsible GUA), created in 2009, responsible for the execu-
management of the entities providing basic, public tion of all investments in the sectors within the
and private services, in order to guarantee the sus- Ministry’s sphere of authority. In response to the
tainability and non-profit nature of the latter. It en- need to ensure the human right to water, EMA-
courages the participation of users, transparency, GUA has launched a $215.5 million USD investment
equity and social justice, respecting and supporting program for potable water and irrigation –the "Mi
the community systems of peasant and indigenous Agua" Project, phases I and II- to achieve the coun-
groups. It supports the efforts of service providers, try’s millennium goals, drawn up by the Executive
including urban, peri-urban and rural EPSAs, Ser- Branch of the current government. In parallel, it
vice Provider Cooperatives and Service Providers’ has launched, particularly in the Departments of La
Associations, within the framework of the legal Paz, Potosí and Santa Cruz, irrigation projects in ru-
guarantees of access to water sources. ral areas as a means of strengthening food securi-
The National Service of Support for Sustainabil- ty, providing water to more than 260,000 families in
ity in Basic Sanitation (SENASBA) is responsible for rural areas, through more than 1,900 water supply
the planning, and to a certain extent the implemen- projects with 80,579 residential connections and

Table 3. Type of administration and flow offered in Departmental Capital Cities


City Epsa/Company Water Supply Flow (Lt/Sec)
EPSAS S.A. Eight surface water sources from rain and thawing: Tuni,
(Mixed ownership limited Condoriri, Huayna Potosí, Milluni, Choqueyapú, Incachaca, Range:
La Paz / El Alto
liability company. The state has Ajan Khota, Hampaturi Bajo. Tilala System (37 Water Wells 2,011-3,000
shares in the company) 90 M Deep)
Range:
Saguapac (Cooperative) Groundwater
347-2,067
Santa Cruz
Nine (9) Cooperatives
Surface sources 722
Small Private companies
Surface sources: Escalerani, Wara Wara, Hierbabuenani Range:
SEMAPA and Chungara 191-404
Cochabamba
(Municipal Company)
Groundwater: Quillacollo 462
Surface sources: Cajamarca System, including Cajamarca,
80
ELAPAS Safiri, Punilla rivers
Sucre
(Municipal Company) Surface sources: Ravelo System, which includes the Ravelo,
390
Mayum Jalaqueri Pears, Murillo And Fisculco rivers.
Local Aqueduct and Sewerage Surface sources: Sepulturas and Huayña Porto rivers 34
Oruro Service - Sela
(Municipal Company) Groundwater (Challa Pampa, Challa Pampita and Airport) 528

Surface sources: San Juan River and 21 Lagoons (Khari,


Potosí AAPOS (Community Company) 220
Tarapaya, Irupampa, Illimani, Challuna)
Trinidad COATRI (Cooperative) Groundwater 118
Surface sources: Rincon, La Victoria, Guadalquivir and San
574
Tarija COSAALT (Cooperative) Jacinto rivers
Groundwater 279
Cobija COSAPCO (Cooperative) Surface sources: Arroyo Bay 24
Source: Compiled by the authors using data supplied by the service operators.
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | BOLIVIA 85

24,600 hectares with new irrigation, in addition to rent government contemplates the passage of a
approximately 2,500 kilometers of pipes with differ- new law on drinking water and sewerage services,
ent installed diameters. called “Water for Life”.
Phase III of the “Mi Agua” project, which began According to the Political Constitution of the
in 2013, includes 1,021 new projects (689 involving State (CPE) of 2009, the Central Government (Exec-
water and 332 irrigation) with an investment of utive Branch) of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, at
$163.5 million USD, which mainly included the ru- all levels, is responsible for the protection of natural
ral areas of the departments of Cochabamba, Oruro, resources and the care of water resources, regarded
Chuquisaca, Tarija, Beni and Pando, thus complet- as strategic for socio-economic development and
ing projects in the nine Departments of Bolivia. Bolivian sovereignty.
The institutional framework of the sector is de-
3.1 Other entities involved fined on the basis of the following regulations:
It is important to mention that the Ministry of
Health, through the Vice Ministry of Health and • Political Constitution of the Plurinational State
Promotion (VSP) and its decentralized entities, is of Bolivia, January 2009.
responsible for the work of monitoring the quality • Law 031, “Andrés Ibáñez” Framework Law on
of the water supplied by providers. It is in charge of Autonomies and Decentralization , July 2010.
undertaking sanitary surveillance of water for hu- • Decree Law 15629, General Health Law (Health
man consumption and epidemiological surveillance Code), 1978.
of water-borne diseases. It is also responsible for • Law 1333, Environmental Law, April 1992.
issuing the Declaration of Health Emergency in the • National Regulations for the Provision of Drink-
event of disasters or risks to public health. ing Water and Sewage Services for Urban Cen-
State universities are generators of knowledge ters, November 1992.
and sources of technological innovation. They play • Regulation of Law 1333 on Water Pollution, 1995.
a leading role in the Commissions responsible for • Law No. 2029 on Drinking Water and Sewerage
standardization, given their practical and research Services.
experience and the non-occupational migration of • Law No. 2029 on Drinking Water and Sewerage
their technical-academic staff, as occurs with the Services.
technical staff of state entities. They undertake • Law No. 3602 on Drinking Water and Sewerage
teaching, research and social interaction work in Services.
the technical - scientific framework, which provides • Law No. 300, Framework Law of Mother Earth
feedback for the knowledge system specific to the and Integral Development for Living Well, Sep-
management of water resources from different per- tember 2012.
spectives. Their potential lies mainly in the provi- • Law 2066, Drinking Water and Sewerage Ser-
sion of water quality laboratory services, wastewa- vices Law, modifying Law 2029, April 2000.
ter, as well as expertise in the evaluation of water • Law No. 071, Law of the Rights of Mother Earth,
resources, with highly specialized personnel. December 2010.
• Supreme Decree 29894.
• Supreme Decree 22965 of November 1991, which
creates the National Basic Sanitation Director-
4. Bolivian General Regulations ate (DINASBA), modified by Supreme Decree
24855 of September 1997, which creates the
on Water Management Vice Ministry of Basic Services, now Vice Minis-
At present, there is no framework law in Bolivia re- try of Drinking Water and Basic Sanitation.
lated to water resources. The Water Law of 1906 has • Bolivian Law 512 - Drinking Water (NB 512). 4th
been severely mutilated and practically repealed. revision, October 2010.
The institutional framework of the sector is defined • National Regulation for the Control of Water
in the Drinking Water and Sewage Services Act No. Quality for Human Consumption. Second revi-
2029 of 1999, revised in 2000 in Law 2066. The cur- sion, December 2010.
86 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | BOLIVIA

• NB 495 - Drinking Water-Definitions and Ter- Table 4. Minimum Control Parameters


minology. Second revision, November 2005. Parameter Maximum acceptable value
• NB 496-Drinking Water - Sampling. First revi-
pH 6.5 a 9.0
sion, November 2005.
Conductivity 1,500 μS/cm*
• NB 689 - Water Installations - Design for Drink-
ing Water Systems, December 2004. Turbidity 5 UNT
• Technical Regulations NB 689; Design for Residual chlorine 0,2 – 1,0 mg/lt
Drinking Water Systems. Vols. 1 and 2, Decem- Heat-resistant coliforms 0 UFC/100 ml
ber 2004. * The maximum acceptable value of the conductivity can also
be expressed as 1,000 mg Std/l. The temperature parameter
must be measured at the sampling point and in the laboratory
in time to perform the analyses. It serves as a reference for mi-
5. Specific standard for drinking crobiological analyses and for the calculation of the Langelier
water quality in Bolivia Index. Source: NB 512 Regulation.

This section will detail the responsibilities and


the follow-up of the norms to determine the water
quality offered by the service providers. Since 2004, establishes the requirements and conditions that
the Ministry of Services and Public Works, the Vice must be fulfilled by EPSAs, both public and private.
Ministry of Basic Services and the Bolivian Institute The standard establishes the maximum acceptable
for Standardization and Quality (IBNORCA) have values of the various parameters that determine
been responsible for enforcing the (NB 512) and its the quality of water supplied for human use and
Technical Regulations for Controlling the Quality of consumption and the methods of application and
Water for human consumption. This responsibili- control.
ty is supervised by the AAPS and was published in
the “Performance Indicators of the 2016 Regulated 5.1 Control of the quality of water for
EPSAs”. human consumption
The fundamental purpose of this regulation 5.1.1 Water quality control parameters
is to establish the requirements for the physical, Bolivian Standard NB 512 establishes the water
chemical, microbiological and radiological quality quality control parameters for human consumption
of water intended for human consumption. It also with which EPSAs must comply.
They are grouped according to their technical
and economic feasibility into the following catego-
Photograph 4. Water Quality Laboratory, UMSA, La Paz ries: Minimum Control, Basic Control, Complemen-
tary Control and Special Control.

5.1.2 Minimum Control Parameters


The Minimum Control Parameters for the Quality of
Water for Human Consumption EPSAs must com-
ply with are shown in Table 4.

5.1.3 Basic Control Parameters


The Minimum Control Parameters for the Quality of
Water for Human Consumption EPSAs must com-
ply with are shown in Table 5.

5.1.4 Complementary Control Parameters


The Minimum Control Parameters for the Quality of
Water for Human Consumption EPSAs must comply
with are shown in Table 6.
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | BOLIVIA 87

Table 6. Complementary Control Parameters


Table 5. Basic Control Parameters
Parameter Maximum acceptable value
Parameter Maximum acceptable value
Inorganic Chemicals
Physical
Aluminum 0.1 mg/lt
Color 15 UCV
Ammonia 0.5 mg/lt
Chemical
Arsenic 0.01 mg/lt
Total dissolved solids 1,000 mg/lt
Boron 0.3 mg/lt
Organic Chemicals
Copper 1 mg/lt
Total Alkalinity 370 mg/lt CaCO3
Fluoride 1.5 mg/lt
Calcium 200 mg/lt
Nitrites 0.1 mg/lt
Chlorides 250 mg/lt
Nitrites 45 mg/lt
Hardness 500 mg/lt CaCO3
Lead 0.01 mg/lt
Total iron 0.3 mg/lt
Zinc 5 mg/lt
Magnesium 150 mg/lt
Disinfection byproducts
Manganese 0.1 mg/lt
Total Trihalomethanes (THM) 100 μg/lt
Sodium 200 mg/lt
Pesticides made from Organic Chemicals
Sulfates 400 mg/lt
Total pesticides 0.5 μg/lt
Source: NB 512 Regulation.
Individual pesticides (*) 0.1 μg/lt
Hydrocarbons
Total hydrocarbons (TPH) 10 μg/lt
5.1.5 Special Control Parameters Benzene 2 μg/lt
The parameters for the Special Control of the Qual- Microbiological Bacteria
ity of Water for Human Consumption EPSAs must
Total coliforms 0 UCF/100 ml
comply with are shown in Table 7. These param-
Escherichia Coli 0 UCF/100 ml
eters will be enforced in disaster situations or in
special cases according to the history of the source Total heterotrophics 500 UCF/100 ml
and/or region, or when EPSAs deem necessary. Pseudomonas aeruginosa 0 UCF/100 ml
Clostridium perfringens 0 UCF/100 ml
3.1.6 Minimum number of samples in the network * There are pesticides whose individual values may exceed the maximum ac-
EPSAs will determine the minimum number of ceptable individual value or the sum of their individual values may exceed the
samples in the distribution network, depending on total maximum value. Source: Nb 512 Regulation.

the population supplied, using Table 8.

5.1.7 Minimum number of sampling 5.1.8 Location of sampling points in the network
points in the network On the basis of the value established in number
For towns with over 5,000 inhabitants, the min- 5.1.7, EPSAs must locate the sampling points in the
imum number of weekly sampling points in the distribution network on the basis of the following
distribution network is obtained by dividing the criteria:
amount obtained from Table 8 by four. If a decimal • They must be uniformly distributed and in-
result is obtained, it will be rounded up to the next clude geographical areas with a risk of contam-
number. ination, low pressure points, high population
For towns with fewer than 5,000 inhabitants, density, final sections of pipes.
the minimum number of sampling points will be • They must be representative of the supply area.
the one obtained from Table 8, and it will not nec- • They must be proportional to the population
essary to divide it by four. supplied.
88 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | BOLIVIA

Table 7. Special Control Parameters With these criteria, there is a possibility that the
Parameter Maximum acceptable value number of sampling points established in the net-
work may be greater than that obtained in section
Inorganic Chemicals
5.1.7.
Antimony 0.005 mg/Lt
Barium 0.7 mg/Lt 5.1.9 Sampling
Cadmium 0.005 mg/Lt EPSAs must take water samples in the distribu-
Cyanide 0.07 mg/Lt tion network according to the number of sam-
Total Chromium 0.05 mg/Lt pling points obtained in Table 8 and section 5.1.7.
When the number of sampling points established
Mercury 0.001 mg/Lt
in accordance with 5.1.8 is greater than the num-
Nickel 0.05 mg/Lt
ber obtained in Section 5.1.7, weekly sampling may
Taste and smell Aceptable be rotated, thus respecting the number of samples
Selenium 0.01 mg/Lt defined.
Organic Chemicals Hydrocarbons
Toluene 700 μg/Lt 5.1.10 Characteristics of sampling points
Sampling points should be representative of the
Ethylbenzene 300 μg/Lt
quality of the water supplied by the EPSAs.
Xylene 500 μg/Lt
The sampling tap must be located as close as
Benzo (a) pyrene 0.2 μg/Lt possible to the indoor connection controlled by
Radioactive Chemicals the EPSAs and free from the influence of an under-
Global Alpha radioactivity 0.10 Bq/Lt * ground storage tank, raised tank or any other type
Global Beta radioactivity 1.0 Bq/Lt * of indoor water storage.
Organic Chemicals
5.1.11 Sampling frequencies
Acrylamide 0.5 μg/Lt The minimum frequency of sampling per year EP-
Epichlorohydrin 0.4 μg/Lt SAs must perform to control water quality is be-
Chloroform 100 μg/Lt tween once a month and once a year, depending on
Source: NB 512 Regulation the population served, the control parameters (Ta-
bles 6 to 8) and the location of the sampling points.

5.1.12. Modification of sampling frequencies


Table 8. Minimum number of samples of the Minimum Modification of sampling frequencies is defined as
Control Parameters (Distribution Network) both the increase and decrease in the number of
Population supplied (inhab.) Number of samples
samples to be taken from the parameter (s) under
consideration.
≤ 1.000 1/Trimester
1.001 to 2.000 1/ Trimester
5.1.13. Increasing sampling frequencies
2.001 to 5.000 1/Month EPSAs will proceed with the increase in sampling
5.001 to 10.000 (1c/5,000 inhab)/Month frequencies, in the following cases:
10.001 to 20.000 (1c/5,000 Inhab)/Month a. If the result of the analyses obtained, for any
20.001 to 30.000 (1c/5,000 Inhab)/Month parameter, has been exceeded under nor-
mal operating conditions or adverse weather
20.001 to 30.000 (1c/5,000 Inhab)/Month
conditions.
50.001 to 100.000 (1c/5,000 Inhab)/Month
b. If the result of the analysis has shown that the
100.001 to 500.000 (10+1c/10,000 Inhab)/Month maximum acceptable value of any parameter
> 500.000 (10+1c/10,000 Inhab)/Month has been exceeded, in more than three consec-
Source: Nb 512 Regulation. utive samples.
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | BOLIVIA 89

The EPSA must increase the frequency of sam- EPSAs when it is identified, suspected and/or
pling of the parameter in question, as many times there is a complaint that the source for water
as necessary until the problem has been controlled consumption has been contaminated.
and the foreseeable risk is low. Otherwise it must
suspend the service and report the details of the 5.1.16 Mix of water sources
problem, the solution and/or the actions to be tak- The sampling frequency in the event of the mixing
en to the Competent Authority or the institution of ground and surface water sources will be deter-
delegated by the latter. mined considering the mixture as surface water.

5.1.14. Reduction of sampling frequencies 5.1.17 Periodic control at source


If for two consecutive years the result of the analy- Using the parameters of NB 512, NB 689 and the Wa-
sis of the parameters of Basic Control and Comple- ter Resources Regulation of Law 1333 as a guide, EP-
mentary Control (Tables 5 and 6) has values below SAs must conduct periodic monitoring of the water
those established in the NB 512, the EPSAs will be quality of the source during the dry season and the
able to process, with the competent authority, the rainy season (2 times/ year) and/or in the event of
decrease in the frequency of the samplings to be a mixture of sources, in such a way as to control the
taken in the following year with respect to that pa- quality of the water source and/or the efficiency of
rameter. For Table 5, this will be done every six the treatment process.
months and for Table 6 it will be done annually.
This modification is not applicable to microbiolog- 5.1.18 Controlling the selection of the source
ical parameters. EPSAs must conduct an analysis of the water qual-
ity of the source in accordance with Tables 5, 6
5.1.15 Compliance with quality requirements and 7, at the start of the activities and/or during
The quality requirements EPSAs must comply with the source selection process. In the event that max-
for water for human consumption are: imum acceptable values are exceeded, EPSAs must
a. In the course of one year, 90 percent (90%) of consider the costs of treatment and its technolog-
the results of the analyses corresponding to the ical possibilities depending on the values of the
compounds that affect the organoleptic, phys- parameters, or discard the source to avoid further
ical and chemical quality of water for human problems.
consumption, detailed in Tables No. 1, No. 2 and
No. 3 of the Regulation, must not exceed the 5.1.19. Sampling procedure
concentrations or values established in Boliv- EPSAs must ensure that the sampling, handling,
ian Standard NB 512. preservation, transport, storage and analysis of the
b. During a one-year period, the content of ther- sample are carried out in accordance with Bolivian
mo-resistant coliforms per 100 milliliters of the Standard NB 496 “Drinking Water – Sampling”. Some
total samples taken at the output of the treat- of the most important ones are mentioned below:
ment plant, storage tanks and distribution a. Sampling vials should be prepared according to
network of the water supply areas must com- the procedures used for taking samples.
ply with the following: 95% of the samples an- b. Samples should be representative of the water
alyzed should not contain thermo-resistant quality of the source or supply areas when the
coliforms. sample is taken.
c. When the concentration of residual chlorine c. Samples should not be contaminated during
is less than 0.2 mg/l at a terminal point of the sampling.
network, a sample of water will be taken for d. Samples should be maintained at a tempera-
bacteriological analysis of thermo-resistant ture and conditions ensuring that there is no
coliforms. natural alteration of the value or concentration,
d. The analysis of Special Control parameters, de- for the measurement or observation for which
scribed in Table 7, will be conducted by the the sample is intended.
90 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | BOLIVIA

e. Samples should taken by trained, experienced III states that AAPS will exercise social control over
personnel. the quantity of public services; Article 298.II.5 pro-
f. Samples should be analyzed as soon as possi- vides instructions on the general water resources
ble within a period of no more than 48 hours and services regime.
after being and in keeping with Normalized Regulatory follow-up is applied through pro-
Procedures. cesses of Supervision, Supervision and Control
based on current sectoral regulatory regulations on
5.1.20 Standard Analytical Methods drinking water and basic sanitation, which estab-
The analytical determinations of the parameters lishes obligations for both reporting and compliance
indicated in the regulations must be carried out in with conditions in the provision of services EPSAs
accordance with current standards, based on stan- have in relation to the regulator in their capacity as
dard analysis methods published by APHA, AWWA, concessionaires. EPSAs are obliged to have short-
WPCF, ASTM and DIN. term and medium-term service planning, reflected
in Five-Year Development Plans (PDQ), Transition-
al Service Development Plans (PTDS), Contingency
6.Regulation of Drinking Water Plans (PdC) and Annual Operating Plans ( POA).
Actions for the control and follow-up of EP-
and Sewerage Services. SAs are undertaken through the management of
The Authority for the Supervision and Social Con- semi-annual and annual reports, in addition to fi-
trol of Water and Basic Sanitation (AAPS) was cre- nancial statements. On-site inspections are also
ated within the framework of Law No. 2066 of April carried out of the various components of the ser-
1, 2000 and Article 3 of Supreme Decree No. 071 of vices provided by EPSAs.
April 9, 2009. This National Authority regulates wa- The technical, economic, financial and commer-
ter resource administration and management, pri- cial performance of the EPSA is evaluated and trans-
oritizing the right of use for human consumption lated into management indicators, which allow ob-
and sanitation, in balance with the environment. servations, recommendations and instructions to
Three major policies are considered: prices and the EPSA to correct the distortion factors that neg-
tariffs, b) efficient water use and c) drinking water atively affect service provision over time, making it
quality control. possible to perceive the trends in indicators and the
The AAPS is responsible for the control of the historical performance of EPSAs. In extreme cases
quality of water for human consumption in regulat- of noncompliance or underperformance, the AAPS
ed providers, including the records of the sampling formulates charges of infringement, which results
and control of the water quality analyses carried in the imposition of economic sanctions that may
out, as well as maintenance work, health inspec- lead to intervention processes when high levels
tions and purge programs by regulated providers. of risk are established in the provision of the ser-
vice or the revocation of the license. Likewise, per-
6.1 Regulatory monitoring model formance evaluation contributes to entities in the
In Bolivia, the regulatory approach is designed to Sector and Territorial Institutions directing their
protect the rights of users, because the right of ac- Policies, Programs and Projects towards the im-
cess to drinking water and sewerage should be provement of services based on the fulfillment of
guaranteed on the basis of the criteria of universal- goals and institutional objectives.
ity, responsibility, accessibility, continuity, efficien- The APPS has instructed EPSAs to prepare and
cy, efficiency, fair rates and the coverage required to implement their respective Contingency Plans since
ensure the sustainability of EPSAs. March 31, 2016. This is a preventive measure against
The regulation of drinking water and sewer- the potential effects of climate change (drought),
age services is supported by a constitutional legal designed to mitigate impacts, which could have an
framework, Article 20 Paragraph II of which states impact on the reduction of the availability of water
that: The provision of basic services is the responsi- resources to provide the service to the population.
bility of all levels of the state. Article 241 paragraph It is necessary to take into account the fact that
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | BOLIVIA 91

Table 9. Regularized EPSAs by Department until the 2016 administration


Temporary
Department Licenses Registers Total
Authorization
Cochabamba 64 415 1 480
La Paz 25 438 1 464
Potosí 15 277 1 293
Santa Cruz 65 222 0 287
Chuquisaca 15 205 0 220
Oruro 12 140 0 152
Tarija 9 71 1 81
Beni 5 60 2 67
Pando 1 54 0 55
Total 211 1882 6 2099
Source: Indicadores de Desempeño de las EPSA reguladas, 2016.

Table 10. Number of EPSAs with regulatory follow up by Department


Category
Department
A B C D Total %
Santa Cruz 1 6 24 6 37 52.9
Cochabamba 1 1 0 5 7 10.0
Beni 0 2 3 0 5 7.1
Potosí 0 2 3 0 5 7.1
La Paz 1 1 2 0 4 5.7
Oruro 0 1 2 1 4 5.7
Tarija 0 3 1 0 4 5.7
Chuquisaca 0 1 0 2 3 4.3
Pando 0 1 0 0 1 1.4
Total 3 18 35 14 70 100.0
Source: Indicadores de Desempeño de las EPSA reguladas, 2016.

“El Niño” and “La Niña” phenomena correlate with b) maintain the quality of the water resource within
floods and intense droughts in various regions of the parameters of the norm, c) provide users with
the country. In the event of floods, the deterioration potable water supply in the event of extreme ra-
of the quality of water at source is critical due to the tioning, and d) avoid potential contamination with
mixing of drinking water and wastewater. Likewise, wastewater, thereby preventing the “crises” experi-
during the dry season, there is an increase in the enced in previous years.
concentration of pollutants in water receiving bod- As a result of the passage of Supreme Decree
ies due to the reduction of contributions that con- DS 726 in 2010, all concessions are transformed into
tribute to their dilution. Special Transitory Authorizations, the APPS having
The most important results expected, after made the promotion to license of those with accept-
the implementation of the respective Contingency able levels of sustainability but not of those that
Plans in the EPSAs, are as follows: a) maintain the had risks in service provision, which is why they
availability of water resources in acceptable ranges, are only in the Transitory Authorizations category.
92 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | BOLIVIA

6.1.1 EPSAs with regulatory monitoring chabamba) and SAGUAPAC (Santa Cruz), and ac-
APPS regulates 56 EPSAs nationally, three of which count for 55.1% of the drinking water connections
belong to category (A), 18 to category (B) and 35 to out of a total of 1,237,789 connections nationwide,
category (C). Another 14 EPSAs are in the process of and 66.3% of sewerage connections out of a total of
being incorporated into the regulatory system (Ta- 772,864 connections nationwide (see Table 12).
ble 10, 2016).

6.1.2 Population with regulatory coverage 7. Performance indicators by goals,


Regulatory coverage (RC) results from the relation-
ship between the sum of the populations within the
parameters and optimal ranges
service areas authorized by the APPS and the total The following are considered performance indica-
population of the country, yielding a result for the tors by objectives, parameters and optimal ranges
2016 administration of 70.48% coverage (Table 11). by category:

6.2 Regulatory coverage-number 7.1 Objective: Reliability of resource


of connections 7.1.1 Assessment
The three cities on the central axis of Bolivia are in Current performance of source: Relationship be-
Category A: EPSAS (La Paz-El Alto), SEMAPA (Co- tween the volume actually exploited during the pe-

Table 11. Population under regulatory coverage of the APPS


Population In Area Authorized
Year Population according to INE* Regulatory Coverage in %
To EPSAS
2013 7.137.735 10.507.789 67.93
2014 7.274.884 10.665.841 68.21
2015 7.524.750 10.825.013 69.51
2016 7.742.791 10.985.059 70.48
Source: Indicadores de Desempeño de las EPSA reguladas, 2016.

Table 12. Regulatory coverage-number of connections


Drinking water
Category Number of EPSA % Sewerage Connections %
connections
Category A 3 682,165 55.1 512,241 66.3
Category B 18 399,222 32.3 201,053 26.0
Category C 35 138,715 11.2 52,338 6.8
Category D 14 17,187 1.4 7,232 0.9
Totales 70 1,237,289 100 772,864 100
Source: Indicadores de Desempeño de las EPSA reguladas, 2016.

Table 13. Objective – Reliability of Resource


Indicator Category A Category B Category C Category D
Current performance of source <85% <85% <85% <85%
Efficient use of resource >65% >60% >60% >60%
Drinking water samples coverage 100% 95% 90% 85%
Compliance of drinking water analyses
95% 95% 95% 95%
undertaken
Source: Adapted from: Indicadores de Desempeño de las EPSA Reguladas, 2016.
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | BOLIVIA 93

riod and the volume authorized by AAPS; optimal 100% are EPSAs that take a greater number of
value: <85% samples than specified in the standard.
Category (A): Central axis, comprising three EP- Category (B): This category comprises 18 EPSAs, 17
SAs: Cochabamba-La Paz-Santa Cruz; 77.14%- of which report records; seven of which (39%)
78.07%-88.29%, respectively. Only one EPSA comply with the optimal indicator (>95%),
records volumes of more than optimal exploita- while the remainder fail to comply with the sam-
tion of sources. ple coverage indicator.
Category (B): They comprise 18 EPSAs, of which 15 Category (C): Of the 35 EPSAs, only 25 present infor-
(83%) have values below 85%. mation; eight comply with the optimal parame-
Category (C): This category comprises 35 EPSAs, ter (>90%), and the remaining 17 fail to comply
with 30 showing consistent data, eight (27.6%) with the optimal parameter.
exceeding 85% and 72.4% meeting the optimal Category (D): Of the 14 EPSAs, only six report infor-
parameter. mation and only three EPSAs comply with cur-
Category (D): This category comprises 14 EPSAs, rent regulations (>85%).
seven of which report information, three of
which exceed 85% and four of which comply EPSAs that fail to comply with the number of
with the optimum parameter. samples for the quality control of drinking water
established by the indicator are exposing their us-
Efficient water use Relationship between the vol- ers to health risks.
ume of water that actually reaches users and the
volume extracted from the source; optimal value: Drinking water analysis compliance: This indica-
65% tor verifies that the water produced meets the qual-
Category (A): Central axis, comprising three EP- ity requirements established in Bolivian Standard
SAs: Santa Cruz-La Paz-Cochabamba; 81.56%- NB512 Potable Water-Requirements.
60.78%-53.34%, respectively. Only one EPSA Category (A): Central Axis, comprising three EP-
presents information on compliance with the SAs: Cochabamba-La Paz-Santa Cruz; 99.12%-
optimal indicator. Non-compliance is due to 99%-95.70%, respectively comply with the wa-
the decrease in volumes of potable water billed ter quality standards.
during the administration due to the drop in Category (B): 61% of EPSAs comply with the indi-
flows in its surface sources owing to the drought cator and NB 512. The other 39% must control
that occurred in both cities. certain inorganic parameters such as iron and
Category (B): This comprises 18 EPSAs, 14 of which manganese, pH and compliance with residual
(77.8%) comply with the optimal indicator and chlorine standards, and register values below
four of which (22.2%) have values below 60%. the minimum level of 0.2 mg/l.
Category (C): This category comprises 35 EPSAs, 26 Category (C): Only 25 of the 35 EPSAs present infor-
of which report data, 24 (92.3%) reach the opti- mation; 12 comply with the optimal parameter
mal parameter, and two (7.7%) have values be- (>90%), and the remaining 13 fail to comply with
low 60%. the optimal parameter. EPSAs must improve the
Category (D): Of the 14 EPSAs, only seven report infor- quality control of water they provide to users
mation, and comply with the optimal parameter. and, if necessary, improve water treatment in-
frastructure, including disinfection.
Drinking water sample coverage: The indicator Category (D): Of the 14 EPSAs, only six present in-
measures compliance with the number of samples formation on the indicator, three of which com-
for water quality monitoring according to the pro- ply with the water analysis standards.
visions of Standard NB 512 Potable Water-Require-
ments and its Regulations. EPSAs with drinking water analysis results be-
Category (A): Central Axis, comprising three EP- low the parameter established by the APPS must
SAs: Cochabamba-Santa Cruz-La Paz; 222.48%- take specific actions to guarantee the quality and
183.72%-98.59%, respectively. Those that exceed safety of the water they provide to their users, pre-
94 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | BOLIVIA

venting the health risk factors of the water sup- have micro measurement or macro measure-
plied. They must also implement a Potable Water ment. The volume of water produced is estimat-
Quality Control Plan, as indicated by the Water ed by its operators and unmetered consumption
Quality Policy. is estimated in the same way.
Category (D): Only six of the 14 EPSAs, comply with
7.1.2 Objective: Stability of Supply the optimal parameter (> 50 L/inhab./day).
Non-compliance is due to the reduction of re-
7.1.3 Assessment serves or water flows in their sources with re-
Supply: The indicator reflects the amount of drink- spect to the authorized amount.
ing water produced by the EPSA per inhabitant
supplied. Continuity due to rationing: The indicator reflects
Category (A): Central axis, optimal parameter> 150 the degree of continuity of the service considering
liters/room/day; Cochabamba-Santa Cruz-La the number of hours of supply to the user popula-
Paz, 161.85-137.53-92.49 Liters/room/day respec- tion in the authorized area, according to the capaci-
tively. Cochabamba apparently complies with ty of sources and infrastructure
the indicator, although this result is distorted by Category (A): Optimal parameter> 20 hours/day;
the high percentage of physical water losses in Central axis; Santa Cruz - La Paz - Cochabamba,
its distribution network. Santa Cruz and La Paz 24 hours - 22.38 hours -13.06 hours, respective-
fail to exceed the parameter established by the ly. The last value of continuity due to rationing
APPS, with the latter having an impact on the is recurrent from previous administrations
decrease in water availability in one of its autho- to 2016, due to water scarcity in its authorized
rized water sources (Incachaca and Hampaturi sources, taking into account climate factors and
Basins), due to the drought aggravated by the ef- high water losses in the network.
fects of climate change. Category (B): Fifty-five per cent of EPSAs comply
Category (B): In general, EPSAs in this category with the optimal parameter. Operators that sup-
comply with the optimal parameter of over 100 ply water using surface sources have continuity
liters/inhab./day. However, in most EPSAs, the limitations on the provision of water for more
result achieved is affected by the high rates of than 20 hours/day, due to their limited produc-
water not accounted for in the drinking water tion capacity and storage infrastructure.
distribution network. In some EPSAs, the per
capita provision tends to decrease due to the re- Discontinuous service affects the management
duction in the supply of its surface sources. of distribution. The operation of networks in-
Category (C): Only 24 of the 35 EPSAs comply with corporates air, causing the removal of material
the optimal parameter (> 80 L/inhab./day). from the internal walls of the pipes, in addition
Only three EPSAs have a capacity of over 190 l/ to the inaccurate measurement of consumption,
inhabitant/day above the optimum parameter, causing complaints and delayed payment by
attributable to the fact that these EPSAS do not customers.

Table 14. Objective: Supply Stability


Indicator Category A Category B Category C Category D
Supply >150 l/hab/day >100 l/hab/day >80 l/hab/day >50 l/hab/day
Continuity due to rationing >20 hr/day >20 hr/day >12 hr/day >8 hr/day
Continuity by cut-off point >95% >95% >95% >95%
Drinking water service coverage >90% >90% >80% >70%
Sewer service coverage >65% >65% >65% >65%
Micromeasurement coverage >90% >90% >90% >80%
Source: Adapted from: Indicadores de Desempeño de las EPSA reguladas, 2016.
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | BOLIVIA 95

Category (C): Twenty of the 35 EPSAs report infor- 60.93%, respectively. In the first two cases, they
mation and comply with the optimal parameter comply with the optimal parameter (> 65%).
(>12 hours/day). Category (B): Only 5 of the 18 EPSAs show compli-
Category (D): Only 6 of the 14 EPSAs provide in- ance results; the rest do not attend their peri-ur-
formation and meet the optimal parameter (>8 ban areas due to infrastructure and financial
hours/day). limitations.
Category (C): Only 20 the 35 EPSAs provide sani-
Continuity by cut-off point: Continuity by cut-off tary sewer service and only four of these comply
point is the expression as a percentage of continuity with the optimal coverage parameter (> 65%).
by rationing. And the cut-off point is established as Category (D): Seven of the 14 EPSAs provide sewer-
a rationing measure, although it is also due to infra- age service and only four comply with coverage
structure maintenance. > 0.65%.

Drinking water service coverage: The indicator It is essential for EPSAs that fail to provide san-
establishes the percentage of the population sup- itary sewer services to implement projects to in-
plied with potable water service with household crease their coverage.
connections and registered in the EPSA.
Category (A): The Central Axis, La Paz-Santa Micromeasurement coverage: The indicator de-
Cruz-Cochabamba have coverage of 97.52%- termines the percentage relationship between the
96.91%-66.67% respectively; the optimal param- number of household connections with a meter in
eter being (>90%). their homes and the total number of EPSA users.
Category (B): Sixty-seven per cent of EPSAs comply Category (A): The Central Axis, La Paz, Santa Cruz
with the optimal parameter (>90% of coverage). and Cochabamba have values of 100%, 99.75%
EPSAS are not meeting requirements in peri-ur- and 86.85%, respectively. The indicator should
ban areas, due to infrastructure limitations and be > 90%. The city of Cochabampa has a high
water supply. percentage of unaccounted for water.
Category (C): Only 22 of the 35 EPSAs comply with Category (B): Fifty-six per cent of EPSAs meet the
coverage >80%, and lack the financial resources optimal parameter; the rest fail to comply with
to expand their water networks. the Efficient Water Use Policy.
Category (D): 13 EPSAs present information, 12 of Category (C): Only 30 of the 35 EPSAs have micro
which comply with the optimal coverage param- measurement information and 24 comply with
eter (>70%). the parameter (> 90%).
Category (D): Only 9 of the 14 EPSAs have micro
As a result of the new government policies, measurement of over 80% and only six comply
EPSAs must implement new investment projects with 100% micro measurement.
to achieve the proposed coverage, especially in
peri-urban areas, in coordination with their local
governments. 7.2 Objective: Environmental Protection
7.2.1 Assessment
Sewerage Coverage: The indicator measures the Incidence of groundwater extraction: Detailed in-
percentage of the population served with a house- formation is unavailable in the publication “Perfor-
hold connection to the sewerage service. mance Indicators of Regulated EPSAs”.
This indicator is included, since it is directly re-
lated to the quality of water in the receiving bodies Wastewater Treatment Index: The indicator
that can be or are potential sources of supply for shows the percentage relationship between the vol-
downstream populations, in addition to establish- ume of wastewater treated and the total estimated
ing basic sewerage conditions. volume of wastewater produced in the water ser-
Category (A): Central axis; Cochabamba, La Paz vice area, in order to minimize impacts on the envi-
and Santa Cruz have values of 84.08%-70.77%- ronment and the health of the population.
96 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | BOLIVIA

Category (A): The Central Axis, La Paz, Santa Cruz Category (A): Central axis; Santa Cruz, La Paz and
and Cochabamba have values of 100%, 99.75% Cochabamba have values of 91.93%, 60.48% and
and 86.85%, respectively. The optimal parame- 59.42%, respectively, with an optimal indicator
ter is set as >60%. of (>95%), which is not complied with.
The low percentage in the case of the city of La Paz Category (B): Only 2 of the 18 EPSAs comply with
is due to the lack of a treatment system; 27.49% the optimal parameter of satisfactory analyses.
corresponds partly to the City of El Alto, a city Category (C): Only 8 of the 13 EPSAs have treatment
adjacent to La Paz. plants, and none of them meet the optimal pa-
Category (B): Seven of the 18 EPSAs have sewage rameter (>95%).
treatment plants, six of which comply with the No information on category D is reported. The ab-
indicator. sence of treatment systems is assumed.
Category (C): only 13 of the 35 EPSAs have treatment
plants, 10 of which comply with the optimum
parameter. 7.3 Proper handling of the drinking
Category (D): No data are available, but it is as- water and sewerage system
sumed that there is no wastewater treatment. 7.3.1 Assessment
Installed capacity of drinking water treatment
Quality control of waste water: The indicator plant: The indicator shows the relationship be-
shows the relationship between the number of sat- tween the treated volume of water in potabilization
isfactory analyses of treated wastewater and the to- plants with respect to the installed capacity of the
tal number of samples analyzed. potabilization system.

Table 15. Environmental Protection


Indicator Category A Category B Category C Category D
Incidence of raw groundwater extraction <85% <85% <85% <85%
Wastewater Treatment Index >60% >60% >50% >50%
Wastewater Quality Control >95% >95% >95% >95%
Source: Adapted from: Indicadores de Desempeño de las EPSA reguladas, 2016.

Table 16. Appropriate handling of the Water and Sewerage System


Indicator Category A Category B Category C Category D
Installed capacity of drinking water treatment plant <90% <90% <90% <90%
Installed capacity of drinking water treatment plant <90% <90% <90% <90%
Drinking water service coverage >95% >95% >95% >95%
Water index not accounted for in production <5% <10% <10% <15%
Water index not accounted for in production <30% <30% <30% <30%
20-50 20-50 20-50 20-50
Density of faults in potable water pipes
Faults/100 km Faults/100 km Faults/100 km Faults/100 km
20-50 20-50 20-50 20-50
Density of faults in potable water pipes Faults/1000 Faults/1000 Faults/1000 Faults/1000
connections connections connections connections
2-4 2-4 2-4 2-4
Density of faults in wastewater pipes
Faults/100 km Faults/100 km Faults/100 km Faults/100 km
Source: Adapted from: Indicadores de Desempeño de las EPSA reguladas, 2016.
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | BOLIVIA 97

Table 17. Wastewater Treatment Volume by Capital City (in l/sec)


City/Year 2008 2009 2010
La Paz / El Alto s.d. s.d. s.d.
Santa Cruz 1,009 1,053 1,116
Cochabamba 795 655 522
Oruro 245 750 750
Sucre 140 152 145
Potosí 13 125 132
Tarija 162 167 174
Trinidad 74 76 76
Cobija s.d. s.d. s.d.
Total 2,478 3,022 2,966
Source: Nb 512 Regulation.

Figure 4. Percentage of wastewater treatment in plants


100%

80%

60%

40%

20%

0%
United States

Canada

Dominican Rep.

Bolivia

Caribbean

Cuba

Chile

Mexico

Brazil

Peru

Colombia

Argentina

Venezuela

Costa Rica

Guatemala

South America

America

Source: Global Water Supply and Sanitation Assesment. Report 2012

Category (A): Central axis: Cochabamba and La Paz; Category (B): Four EPSAs report information below
with values of 55.78% and 79.91%, for an opti- the optimal parameter (<90%).
mal value (<90%). La Paz treats 100% of the wa- Category (C): Only eight of the 35 EPSAs have wa-
ter extracted from its surface sources, which ter purification plants, three of which are above
accounts for 79.91% of its production; the equiv- the optimal parameter of the indicator and five
alent of 20.09% corresponds to water extracted of which require investment to expand capacity.
from deep wells, subjected to disinfection. The Category (D): Only two of the 14 EPSAs have water
city of Santa Cruz disinfects 100% of the water purification plants, which comply with the opti-
from its wells. mal parameter of the indicator.
It is necessary to have a study on the overall effi-
ciencies of the plants.
98 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | BOLIVIA

Installed Capacity of Wastewater Treatment Category (C): Only 19 of the 35 EPSAs present infor-
Plant: This section details the relationship between mation, nine of which comply with the pressure
the volume of water treated in Wastewater Treat- range.
ment Plants with respect to the installed treatment Category (D): Only two of the 14 EPSAs present
capacity. information on monitoring service pressures,
Category (A): Central axis; La Paz, Cochabamba and complying with the optimum parameter. Twelve
Santa Cruz, have values of 69.6%, 77.22% and EPSAs are recommended to perform pressure
98.45%, the optimal parameter being <90%. controls.
Santa Cruz is reaching the limit of its capacity,
compromising the goal of achieving 100% cover- The following are not evaluated: the index of wa-
age in the medium term. La Paz and Cochabam- ter not accounted for in production, the index of
pa have achieved the optimal parameter; how- water not accounted for in the network, the density
ever, La Paz treats the wastewater discharged at of faults in potable water pipes, the density of faults
the plant in the city of El Alto. Cochabamba de- in drinking water connections and the density of
creased the volume of treatment due to a reduc- faults in wastewater connections, since these are
tion in the amount of drinking water it supplies highly specific to each system.
to users.
Category (B): Only eight of the 18 EPSAs, have treat-
ment infrastructure and only two of them com- 8. Conclusions
ply with the optimal parameter (<90%).
Category (C): Only 13 of the 35 EPSAs have treat- The following entities are responsible for contrib-
ment plants, 10 of which comply with the opti- uting to the implementation of the policy, protect-
mum parameter. ing natural resources and the environment, and
Category (D): There are no available data. providing support to the providers of drinking wa-
ter for due compliance in the supply of water for hu-
The wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) man consumption:
identified in Bolivia urgently require a strategy that 1. Governorships (departmental governments), are
will enable them to progressively achieve effective responsible for implementing the general policy
operation, since many of them do not operate due of conservation and protection of watersheds
to the lack of resources and capacities of the op- and aquifers, in their sphere of jurisdiction.
erators. However, they have the potential to reuse 2. Autonomous Municipal Governments are re-
wastewater for irrigation purposes (see Figure 4 sponsible for ensuring the provision of pota-
and Table 17). ble water and sewerage services within their
jurisdiction.
Pressure on Drinking Water Service: The indi- 3. SENASBA, in charge of the development of the
cator shows the degree of compliance of pressure sector's capacities, is responsible for:
ranges between 13 and 70 mca at representative i. Providing technical assistance and institu-
points of the drinking water network, in order to tional strengthening to providers in terms
guarantee service in the concession area. of drinking water quality.
Category (A): Central Axis, Santa Cruz-La Paz-Coch- ii. Training human resources and providers
abamba have values of 100%-89.41%-11.19%, the in various sectoral issues, including oper-
optimal parameter being >95%. Due to its to- ational control plans and others related to
pography, La Paz has pressure difficulties in its drinking water quality, as well as promot-
high zones. Cochabamba does not comply due to ing a certification system for labor compe-
maintenance deficiencies and a deficit of water tencies in the sector.
resources: high unaccounted for water. iii. Helping, during the implementation of
Category (B): Only 30% of the 18 EPSAs comply with potable water works, to inform the pop-
the indicator (>95%). ulation of the importance of drinking wa-
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | BOLIVIA 99

ter quality. It has the Plurinational Wa- ination, as well as the decontamination processes,
ter School as a coordination platform for require long-term actions that may even force the
knowledge management through training abandonment of the local source of water supply.
and applied research processes. It is therefore necessary to establish more analysis,
4. The Executing Entity of Environment and Wa- monitoring and protection of groundwater, given
ter (EMAGUA) under the MMAyA, the Fund for the obvious lack of care in the management of facil-
Productive and Social Investment (FPS) and ities near the wells for water extraction.
the Program and Project Coordinating Units This is a marked tendency towards urban
that administer investment in drinking water growth in the main cities of Bolivia, located in areas
and sanitation, as well as the Units dependent with a water deficit. This is driving the need for po-
on the Autonomous Departmental or Munic- table water, but also requires a strategy to be able
ipal Governments, which build hydraulic and to afford major investments in the construction of
health infrastructure works on their own or wastewater treatment plants, since many of them
through third parties, must ensure that the de- are overloaded and there is less sewerage than
signs and public works meet the requirements drinking water coverage.
to ensure the supply of drinking water, in keep- The wastewater treatment plants (WWTP)
ing with the policy and technical regulations identified in Bolivia urgently require a strategy that
corresponding to the National Development will enable them to progressively achieve effective
Plan (PDN), which includes the Basic Sanita- operation, since many of them do not operate due
tion Plan. to the lack of resources and capacities of the op-
5. IBMETRO, affiliated to the Ministry of Produc- erators. However, they have the potential to reuse
tive Development and Plural Economy, is the wastewater for irrigation purposes. Downstream of
national reference entity for all measurements the WWTPs, mainly in places with agro-productive
and, as such, protects and maintains national characteristics, treated (or partially treated) water
measurement standards. It also provides cali- and, in some cases, untreated waters are being used
bration, accreditation and verification services for complementary irrigation. However, very little
for equipment in metrological aspects. Based has been done to explore the solution to the prob-
on the above, it is the entity in charge of the ac- lems of pollution and health that may be caused by
creditation of laboratories for water analysis, its use in irrigation.
as well as the calibration and metrological ver- Although there is a regulatory framework in Bo-
ification of equipment used in the drinking wa- livia, the Environment Law and the Sectoral Laws
ter and basic sanitation sector. (Drinking Water Law and Irrigation Law), in order
to comply with the norm, it is necessary to meet sev-
There is a growing consensus that the best way eral needs such as the following: 1) greater quantity
to guarantee water suitable for human consump- and quality of information, which implies financial
tion is through the protection and control of wa- resources and advice, 2) coordination between the
ter sources, avoiding nearby contamination points, sectors according to the roles and competencies of
which results in not only attending the point where each of them for greater effectiveness, and 3) capac-
the extraction of water, whether surface or ground- ity development in the various levels of government
water, is carried out, but also protecting the micro and entities involved with the problem.
basin, the recharge area and the catchment area of Although it is estimated that in Bolivia there are
the collection works. 303,000 million m³/year of renewable internal wa-
In this context, the detection of possible sourc- ter resources, 40% of the territory experiences dry
es of contamination is more visible and evident in periods. It is estimated that 1,054 million m³/year
surface waters, which makes it possible to take pre- of water are used for irrigation, 124 million m³/year
ventive or corrective measures, whereas in the case for population use and 62 million m³/year for in-
of groundwater, contamination advances without dustrial use.
being able to be visualized and studies to deter- Over five million inhabitants of Bolivia lack
mine the source and characteristics of the contam- sewerage systems. The final disposal of untreated
100 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | BOLIVIA

wastewater collected amounts to 70%, contaminat- The oversight body informs social organiza-
ing water courses, land and aquifers. A study of 111 tions, departmental and national representatives,
populated centers nationwide, where water is re- with the aim of making management transparent
used for irrigation in an area of 5000 ha, shows that and strengthening social control in the sector by re-
84 have a WWTP with operational problems while ceiving suggestions from participants.
the remainder have no form of treatment. The AAPS supervises the EPSA linked to the wa-
A Mixed Wastewater Commission has been cre- ter and sanitation service, which are under the reg-
ated as a space for generating proposals and guide- ulatory system throughout the country.
lines to find solutions to the problem of reuse. The According to the projections of the institution,
commission is producing technical assistance and the short-term goal is to achieve 75 to 80% percent
information for making future decisions. It is es- drinking water coverage and up to 60% sewerage
sential to invest in the construction of wastewater coverage. Within this framework, all the invest-
treatment plants, since many of them are overload- ments made by the state, through various institu-
ed and there is less sewerage than drinking water tions, are geared to this objective.
coverage. A strategy is also required to ensure that According to data from the Ministry of Envi-
it works properly. ronment and Water, the country requires an invest-
Downstream of the WWTPs, treated and un- ment of one billion dollars to expand coverage, and
treated wastewater is being used for complementa- improve and maintain the quality of drinking water
ry irrigation. However, very little research has been and sewerage service nationwide.
done to find a solution to the problems of pollution One of the AAPS policies is to become an infor-
and health that could be caused by its use for irriga- mation reference to identify the sectors in which
tion. Although there is a regulatory framework, it is basic sanitation, treatment plants and water sourc-
necessary to ensure the following to achieve greater es are required, among other needs.
effectiveness, namely: 1) greater quantity and qual- The main factor in the quality of water for hu-
ity of information, in addition to its systematization man consumption and irrigation in the three com-
and 2) coordination between the sectors according ponents of the Bolivian hydrographic system is the
to the roles (in addition to their recognition). negative impact of mining and industrial activity on
According to the AAPS, there is 70% drinking water resources, which in many cases have exceed-
water coverage in Bolivia (equivalent to seven mil- ed the maximum limits allowed for concentrations
lion residents), whereas 30% (three million) lack of harmful substances, causing social and econom-
access this benefit, the majority of whom live in ic problems in depressed sectors of society. In the
rural areas. During a public event held at the seat major water courses of the Amazonian and Plata
of government, the regulatory authority explained slopes, the deterioration of water quality is reflect-
that there is 55% basic sanitation service - sewer ed in a high concentration of sediments, caused by
connection – coverage, equivalent to approximately laminar erosion and mass movement in the upper
5.5 million residents. basins, as well as by the high levels of concentration
of the substances used in gold mining.
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | BOLIVIA 101

References
Argollo J. y Mourguiart P. (1995). Climas Cuaternari- Norma Boliviana NB 512 – Agua Potable Requisitos
os en América del Sur. La Paz: ORSTOM. (2005).
Autoridad de Fiscalización y Control Social de Agua Organización Mundial de la Salud (OMS) / ONU
Potable y Saneamiento Básico (AAPS) (2016). In- Agua (2015). Saneamiento, Agua de Consumo e
dicadores de Desempeño de las EPSA Reguladas. Higiene.
La Paz: MMAyA. Reglamento Nacional para el Control de la Calidad
Cardozo, A., Montes de Oca, I., Rodrigo, L. A., Saave- de Agua para Consumo Humano - NB 512.
dra, A. (2004). Procesos de salinización en el Alti- Servicio Geológico de Bolivia / British Geological
plano Central. Una contribución a su conocimien- Survey (1994). Proyecto Precámbrico.
to. La Paz: Academia Nacional de Ciencias de Urquidi, Fernando (2012). Los recursos hídricos en
Bolivia. Bolivia: un punto de vista estratégico sobre la
Constitución Política del Estado (CPE) (2009). Recu- problemática de las aguas transfronterizas en
perado de: https://www.oas.org/dil/esp/Con- Diagnóstico del Agua en las Américas. México:
stitucion_Bolivia.pdf IANAS-FCCyT.
España, Carlos (2004a). Norma Boliviana NB 689, Urquidi, Fernando (2013). Water Resources in Bo-
Para el Diseño de Sistemas de Agua Potable y livia: A Strategic Viewpoint of the Issues Asso-
Plantas Potabilizadoras de Agua. ciated with Transboundary Waters in: Diagnosis
España, Carlos (2004b). Reglamentos Técnicos de of Water in the Americas. México: IANAS, AMC,
Diseño para Sistemas de Agua Potable. NB 689; II-UNAM.
Vols. 1/2 y 2/2. Urquidi, Fernando (2015). Compendio de la situ-
Fundación Natura Bolivia (2010). Manejo integral ación de los recursos hídricos en las ciudades
en la cuenca de Arroyo Bahía-Pando. Santa Cruz, capitales departamentales de Bolivia, en De-
Bolivia. safíos del agua urbana en las Américas. México:
INTESCA, AIC & CNR (1993). Plan global binacio- IANAS-UNESCO.
nal de protección-prevención de inundaciones Urquidi, Fernando (2015). Compendium of the Wa-
y aprovechamiento de los recursos del lago Tit- ter Resources in the Capital Cities of the Depart-
icaca, río Desaguadero, lago Poopó y salar de ments of Bolivia, in Urban Water Challenges in
Coipasa (Sistema T.D.P.S.). Convenios ALA/8603 the Americas. Mexico: IANAS-UNESCO).
y ALA/87/23 – Perú y Bolivia.
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | BRAZIL 102

Brazil

Brazil has the highest volume of


renewable fresh water resources,
accounting for approximately 12% of
the world’s supply. This does not mean
that the country is safe from shortage
of this natural resource. In the next
decade, increasing consumption of
treated water is a factor that will amplify
the problems caused by extended
droughts and the national precarious
distribution infrastructure. Until 2030,
water consumption will increase 24% in
comparison to the current volume, due to
urbanization process, and the expansion of
industry, agroindustry and the economy.

Streets of downtown São Paulo, Brazil © iStock


103 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | BRAZIL

Water Quality In Brazil


Adalberto Luís Val, Carlos E. de M. Bicudo, Denise de C. Bicudo, Diego Guimarães Florencio Pujoni, Fernando Rosado
Spilki, Ina de Souza Nogueira, Ivanildo Hespanhol, José Almir Cirilo, José Galizia Tundisi, Pedro Val, Ricardo Hirata,
Sandra Maria Feliciano de Oliveira e Azevedo, Silvio Crestana and Virginia S.T. Ciminelli

1. The Water Quality In Brazil: Historical Perspective


Industrial development, urbanization, and agricultural activities in the last 50 years contrib-
uted extensively to the complex and delicate situation of water quality in Brazil. The histor-
ical process of water quality degradation somewhat followed the worldwide path described
in Tundisi et al. (2015) and was clearly described in Bicudo & Bicudo (2017). First, the in-
dustrial development produced effluents with heavy metals, dissolved organic substances,
and other toxic materials. Accelerated urbanization after the year 1950 together with inade-
quate wastewater treatment contributed to the accumulation of organic matter and the eu-
trophication of rivers, reservoirs, and lakes. The extensive agricultural activities, the heavy
application of pesticides and herbicides, and the uncontrolled use of fertilizers, especially in
regions of widespread sugar cane and soy bean plantation, also contributed to water quali-
ty degradation. Today, eutrophication is one of the major environmental problems in Brazil
with enormous economic, ecological, and human health consequences.
Mineral exploitation of iron, gold, and other metals is another cause for the degradation
of the water quality in several regions of Brazil. Arsenic, mercury, and lead are all typical
contaminants that may be related to this activity. Mozetto et al. (2003) described how metals
and nutrients are weakly bound in sediments of the Tietê River (São Paulo) and what this
would cause to human health. In the last few years, floods, large disasters such as the Doce
River contamination by a tailing dam failure, and other intense discharge of toxic substanc-
es aggravated the picture of the water quality degradation. Deforestation activities all over
the country, including removal of riparian vegetation also affect water quality of water bod-
ies and contribute to deterioration. Urban rivers and reservoirs are environments of partic-
ularly high impact on water quality due to increasing exploitation.

Adalberto Luís Val dalval.inpa@gmail.com Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia, Manaus, AM, Brasil. Carlos E. de M. Bicudo
cbicudo@terra.com.br Chapter Coordinator, Instituto de Botânica, São Paulo, SP, Brasil. Denise de C. Bicudo denisecbicudo@gmail.com
Instituto de Botânica, São Paulo, SP, Brasil. Diego Guimarães Florencio Pujoni diegopujoni@gmail.com Universidade Federal de Mi-
nas Gerais, MG, Brasil. Fernando Rosado Spilki fernandors@feevale.br Universidade Feevale, Novo Hamburgo, RS, Brasil. Ina de Souza
Nogueira isnogueira.ufg@gmail.com Universidade Federal de Goiás, Goiânia, GO, Brasil. Ivanildo Hespanhol ivanhes@usp.br Univer-
sidade de São Paulo, São Paulo, SP, Brasil. José Almir Cirilo almir.cirilo@gmail.com Universidade de São Paulo, Piracicaba, SP, Brasil. José
Galizia Tundisi tundisi@iie.com.br Chapter Coordinator, Instituto Internacional de Ecologia, São Carlos, SP, Brasil. Pedro Val pedroval07@
gmail.com Universidade Federal de Ouro Preto, MG, Brasil. Ricardo Hirata rhirata@usp.br Universidade de São Paulo, São Paulo, SP, Bra-
sil. Sandra Maria Feliciano de Oliveira e Azevedo sazevedo@biof.ufrj.br Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brasil.
Silvio Crestana silvio.crestana@embrapa.br Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropecuária, São Carlos, SP, Brasil. Virginia S.T. Ciminelli
ciminelli@demet.ufmg.br Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, MG, Brasil.
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | BRAZIL 104

Consequences of this large-scale process are nologist Harald Sioli who initially described the
very relevant. First, the economy of municipali- three basic water types of the Amazon: the white
ties and states are negatively impacted. Second, waters of the Solimões/Amazonas river; the black
the impact on human health is also not totally un- waters of the Negro River; and the clear waters of
derstood yet. Deteriorated water quality results in the Tapajós (Sioli, 1950). These distinctions are not
high costs for water treatment to provide adequate just based on color, but mainly on physicochemical
drinking water to the human population. Deterio- and biological characteristics. The white, or rath-
ration of biodiversity is yet another consequence of er muddy, waters of the Solimões-Amazonas Riv-
low water quality and environmental disasters af- er have a near neutral pH, a large amount of sus-
fecting rivers, reservoirs or lakes. Due to this sce- pended sand from the Andes and riverbanks, low
nario, few watersheds of Brazil can be considered concentration of dissolved organic carbon (DOC),
pristine. Therefore, the restoration of water quality and higher nutrients relative to other water bodies
in Brazil, the protection of the few pristine water- of the Amazon. Black water rivers (i.e. Negro Riv-
sheds left, and the enforcement of environmental er) differ in that they show an acid pH ranging from
laws are some of the important actions necessary 3.2 to 5, high levels of DOC, and very low levels of
to promote better life quality, reduce risks and vul- sodium, potassium, and calcium. The clear waters
nerability to water security and promote econom- (i.e. Tapajós River) have a pH between 6 and 7, low
ic growth. It is fundamental to monitor all regions levels of DOC, sodium, potassium, calcium, and high
consistently with the maintenance of permanent transparency (Furch, 1984).
and public databases to support public policies. A remarkable feature of the Amazon basin is the
In this volume, we outline the current state of seasonal variation of river water levels, appropri-
water quality in all regions of Brazil including some ately called flood pulses (Junk et al., 1989). In the
of the main challenges for surface and groundwater. banks of Manaus, the level of the Negro River can
Furthermore, we present some specific challenges, vary more than 15 m between low and high-wa-
such as the emerging risks of pesticides, herbicides, ter seasons. Other environmental parameters also
hormones, and climate change. Lastly, we discuss show diurnal, seasonal, and even geographic vari-
the economic implications of water quality degra- ation, influenced by the interaction with the var-
dation and make some remarks about the reduction ious environmental characteristics, such as the
of water vulnerability in Brazil. dissolved oxygen level. Of course, these different
characteristics impose challenges of all orders of
aquatic organisms. In the case of fish, for example,
2. Water Quality: North Region a broad set of adaptations at all levels of the biolog-
ical organization has been developed throughout
In the Amazon everything is great and diverse. The the evolutionary process, so that they can cope with
extensive watershed originates in the Peruvian An- environments that exhibit significant variation in
des, specifically in the Nevado Mismi, and spreads oxygen availability over short periods of time (Val
across all the countries of northern South America, & Almeida, 1995; Val, 1995; Val et al., 2015). Similar-
covering an area of seven million square kilome- ly, fish from the Negro River can maintain ionic ho-
ters. The Amazonas River, the main water course, meostasis despite the acidity and ion poor charac-
reaches the Atlantic Ocean after flowing for 6,992 teristics of their environment (Gonzalez et al., 2002;
km, where it discharges 20% of all the fresh water Wood et al., 2014). Today it is known that DOC has
that reaches all marine environments of the world. a relevant role in this process (Duarte et al., 2016).
This volume of water is five times greater than that There is still much to be said about the adapta-
of the Congo River (Africa) and 12 times than that tions and abilities of the aquatic biota of the Ama-
of the Mississippi River (United States of Ameri- zon. However, many aquatic organisms are already
ca). Each small space is unique in the Amazon. This facing challenges posed by man-made environmen-
holds true for water too. It was the German lim- tal changes. We highlight here, very briefly, three of
105 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | BRAZIL

these challenges. First, the presence of metals from which still affects public policies in the country has
mining in several bodies of water in the region, decreased the effort to expand the treatment of do-
which endanger several species of fish that are very mestic sewage. The result is that sewage collection
sensitive to these metals, such as copper (Crémazy is in most Northeastern cities less than 40% of the
et al., 2016; Duarte et al., 2009). Second, the effect volume produced, and effective treatment of sew-
of climate change on aquatic environments, making age in major cities, with few exceptions, is below
them warmer, more acidic and with less dissolved 30%. The issue of solid waste pollution from rivers
oxygen, conditions that represent an intensifica- and canals that cross the poorest regions of the cit-
tion of the challenges that many aquatic organisms ies is alarming; the deficiency of waste collection
of the Amazon already face (Oliveira & Val, 2017). services and the lack of environmental awareness
Third, the urban impact on the rivers that cross the of the riverine population transform these small
cities, when they receive a vast amount of new chem- watercourses into floating solid waste reservoirs.
ical compounds and debris that represent new chal- Diffuse industrial pollution is another cause for
lenges for the aquatic biota. In this case, two groups concern as industrial clusters such as garment pro-
of compounds are worth mentioning: plastics and duction growing in areas close to temporary rivers
leachate from landfills. Lastly, while on the one hand that receive high net waste from production.
a great challenge to expand what we know about the Upstream of urban centers and still considering
pristine Amazonian aquatic environment is needed, the wettest regions of the Northeast, water quali-
on the other hand there is also a gigantic and urgent ty is usually satisfactory, although there are prob-
need for robust information to reduce the anthropic lems in some rivers resulting from contamination
impacts of all orders on the unique aquatic environ- by agricultural activities (i.e. sugarcane). In the re-
ments that occur in the Amazon. gion crossed by the São Francisco River, despite a
relatively higher level of sewage treatment in the
main cities compared to other parts of the North-
3. Water Quality: Northeast Region east, eventual algae proliferation accidents have
occurred, damaging the water supply of the cit-
In order to contextualize the issue of water quality ies. It must be considered in this case the presence
in the Brazilian Northeast, the distinction between of many irrigation systems along the river, whose
hydrochemical quality and quantity of surface wa- drainage systems can affect water quality.
ter and groundwater must be highlighted. Consid- Concerning groundwater formations, the wa-
ering the surface water issue, Northeastern Brazil ter stored in sedimentary aquifers are generally of
contains only 3% of Brazilian water and has only good quality in all aspects. In coastal sedimentary
two perennial large rivers, the São Francisco, which aquifers there is a risk of salinization in many wells
concentrates 63% of the Northeast water, and the as a consequence of high exploitation or vertical in-
Parnaíba, with 15%. All other somewhat large rivers filtration in poorly sealed wells. On the other hand,
are intermittent, i.e. they only flow in the rainy sea- water quality is greatly impaired by the high con-
son. In the coastal region, perennial rivers of small centration of salts in the so-called fissure aquifers
extension are present and are of great importance in which water percolates between rock fractures.
to water supply for the population and productive Alarmingly, these salts dominate more than 80% of
activities, chiefly since the majority of the popula- the region.
tion and industrial production is concentrated up
to 150 km from the coastline. In this range closer
to the coastline, the biggest problem for river wa- 4. Water Quality: Central-West Region
ter quality is pollution from domestic sewage and
solid waste, particularly along rivers and canals The Central-West region of Brazil contains springs
that flow through cities. Although important sew- of five hydrographic regions (Amazon, Paraguay,
age treatment programs have been partially imple- Araguaia-Tocantins, Paraná and São Francisco). Be-
mented in the region, especially in the larger urban sides supplying the Central-West and all the other
centers, the economic crisis that began in 2014 and regions in Brazil, these hydrographic regions also
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | BRAZIL 106

contribute to Paraguay and Argentina. This is the this region contains a great amount of iron. During
second least populated region, where pristine wa- the rainy period, most of the rivers become muddy
ters can be found in different locations such as the due to erosion and deforestation.
Formoso River basin in the state of Mato Grosso do The region also has a great groundwater re-
Sul (municipalities of Bonito, Jardim, and Bodoque- serve. The Guarani Aquifer expands through south,
na) and the Federal District (Águas Emendadas Eco- southeast, and central-west regions and contrib-
logical Station). Also, in different places of the Goiás utes to the water supply of a significant portion of
state (especially in the Chapada dos Veadeiros Park the watersheds in the southern Central-West re-
region) and Mato Grosso (Poconé) (Tundisi & Mat- gion. Several springs originate from this ground-
sumura-Tundisi, 2011; Cunha-Santino & Bianchini Jr., water system and are exploited for irrigation and
2008; O’Sullivan & Reynolds, 2004). As in the North public supply. One can also observe cave lakes that
region, waters can be classified in some types de- are common at the north of Goiás and south of Mato
scribed below. Grosso do Sul states.
Thermal waters occur due to natural geother- Aquatic environments in Central Brazil are im-
mal gradients in the Earth’s crust (Goiás, 2006). portant and attractive for tourism and recreation
Thermal localities exist in Mato Grosso (Barra do (water sports, waterfalls, pristine lagoons, rivers
Garça, Rondonópolis, Juscimeira, Primavera do Les- with rapids). Unfortunately, they are experiencing
te and Santo Antônio do Leverger cities) and Goiás, serious erosion problems, silting, construction of
the latter being the state with the greatest number waterways and hydropower plants, and water piv-
of hot springs in Brazil. Thermal springs originate ots as well as water pollution (rural and urban). The
through different aquifers (Araxá, Paranoá, Serra most damaging of all has been the advance of agri-
Geral, Serra da Mesa, Aquidauana, Cristalino No- cultural and agribusiness frontiers that began with
roeste and Guarani). There are 19 natural upwell- government projects in the 1970s (Miziara, 2006;
ing sources in the state classified as isothermal Rodrigues & Miziara, 2008) and was intensified in
(36-38°C) and hyperthermal (> 38°C) springs. The the first decade of the 21st Century, promoting in-
largest hot water complex in the country is concen- tense deforestation, especially in Goiás and Mato
trated in the Caldas Novas and Rio Quente munici- Grosso do Sul states. The lack of sanitation and wa-
palities (Goiás, 2006), but thermal upwellings also ter treatment also contributed for the serious mis-
exist in Chapada dos Veadeiros Park, Lagoa Santa, characterization of the watersheds that changed to
and Goiás city. Quente River (Goiás) is the largest meet population growth, agricultural, industrial,
hyperthermal river in the country and runs through and commercial supplies.
a Cerrado region. Currently, there are about 700 hydropower
Acidic or black waters are composed of dis- plant (HPP) reservoirs and/or small HPP that mod-
solved acids of plant origin with a brownish color ifies the rivers morphology, the water quality, and/
and pH < 6. They are registered in different locali- or the type of water. The most modified river is the
ties of all Central-West Brazil states. Specifically, the Tocantins with eight reservoirs of various shapes in
Chapada dos Veadeiros Park presents an extensive its course, the largest one being in the state of Goiás
area covered by acidic water rivers, among which (Serra da Mesa Reservoir). The only river not yet
the Negro River in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul fragmented is the Araguaia due to its origin. This
and Suia-mixu River in the state of Mato Grosso. Salt river is the largest in central Brazil (Valente et al.,
and brackish waters are recorded in the Pantanal 2013) and borders the states Mato Grosso and Goiás.
(Santos & Sant’Anna, 2010; Barbiero et al. 2008), in There also is the Mato Grosso’s Pantanal, the larg-
the northeast region of Goiás (Bambuí aquifer that est continuous wetland on the planet. Nonetheless,
promotes brackish springs, Goiás, 2006). These wa- some of the rivers that flow into this ecosystem are
ters originate in the soil containing these water under some sort of impact (i.e. livestock, deforesta-
bodies. Muddy or brown waters are recorded for tion, and gold-mining) that affect their water quality.
most of the rivers that run through latosol regions. Another process of extreme importance is the
In Central-West Brazil, the most common type is the climate impacts, which have been increasing in the
ferruginous latosol (Resck, 1991). Waters flowing in last 10 years. Seasons have changed to the point of
107 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | BRAZIL

producing excessive rains and extreme droughts. lion people. Water quality is affected mainly by the
These conditions lead to processes of large floods lack of waste water treatment, the discharge of fer-
and rivers that once were perennial and now dry tilizers from agriculture and effluents of industrial
up during the drought period. For example, in 2017 plants, and the contamination of groundwater.
only in Goiás, more than 15 rivers had total or par- Although the southeast treats a large volume
tial absence of water in their beds, damaging the of sewage it is not sufficient for a complete clean-
aquatic biota and the public supply. ing up of surface waters. About 40 % of sewage is
Water is an excellent indicator of environmen- still discharged without any treatment in continen-
tal quality since it is directly influenced by the wa- tal water bodies such as rivers, reservoirs, coast-
ter regime to which the ecosystems are subjected. al lagoons, and coastal regions. As a consequence,
Furthermore, volume and flow are also affected by blooms of cyanobacteria are frequent in the inland
deforestation which is being intensified by climate and coastal waters. Eutrophication of reservoirs in
change (Coe et al., 2011). Currently, the concept for São Paulo State, for example is very frequent, even
sustainable water use in the Central-West Brazil a permanent feature in some cases (Tundisi 2018,
is still anthropocentric and harmful (i.e. numer- in press).
ous reservoirs and licensed grants) (Tundisi, 2002; Several diffuse sources of water quality degra-
2014), thus conceptualizing water sustainability in dation also originate in abandoned solid waste res-
an environmental sense is necessary. Together with idues. These diffuse impacts affect not only surface
the intensive use of water comes the concept of vir- waters but also underground waters. Deforestation
tual water (Tundisi, 2014), which is used because of of vegetation mosaics and riparian forests is anoth-
its presence in the final product of the food produc- er main cause of degradation, increasing discharge
tion process, which is ultimately exported to other of pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers to rivers and res-
regions of the country and to the world. This con- ervoirs impairing water quality and increasing the
cept is well applied in a region whose economy is cost of water treatment for potable uses. (Tundisi &
based on agriculture and livestock production, and Matsumura-Tundisi, 2010; Tundisi et al., 2015).
water is therefore fundamental for its economic de- Contamination of groundwater in the south-
velopment. Investigation of water quality in Brazil east is an additional impact on water quality. Part of
abides by specific legislation by the National Envi- the southeast region uses water resources from the
ronmental Council (CONAMA, 357; Brasil, 2005), by Guarani Aquifer. These resources are used by sev-
the National Water Resources Policy (Brasil, 1997), eral small to midsized towns (50.000 to 200.000 in-
and by an integrated water resource management habitants) as source of public supply of water.
system (ANA, 2005). In the Central-West region, ap- Protection of water quality in the region would
plication of these laws is still precarious and rais- therefore include recovery of vegetation in the wa-
es many conflicts such as the indiscriminate use of tersheds, restoration of riparian forests, treatment
water and lobby of the agribusiness companies. The of 100% of wastewater, and reduction of the open
only legislation effectively applied focuses on pub- air solid-waste sites in order to avoid contamina-
lic supply (Consolidation Ordinance, 5/2017; Brasil, tion of surface and groundwater. Integrated man-
2017). As highlighted here, there are different types agement of watersheds with a systemic vision,
of water in the Central-West region and their mul- strong environmental education of the population,
tiple uses lead to a complex scenario with strong and capacity building of managers are some of the
human interference. It cannot be denied that wa- fundamental steps in the recovery and conserva-
ter supports sustainable development in the Cen- tion of water quality. Also, strong conservation
tral-West region. measures in existing pristine waters could be an ex-
cellent tool to maintain a scientific information ba-
sis on the original water quality in the Southeast.
5. Water Quality: Southeast Region Preparation of water quality management for re-
covery and conservation is also essential to adapt
The southeast of Brazil is the most populated and to climatic change (Jorgensen, Tundisi, Matsumu-
urbanized area of the country with about 120 mil- ra-Tundisi, 2013).
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | BRAZIL 108

6. Water Quality: South Region are highly impacted by low levels of sewage treat-
ment and a consequent increase in costs related to
The Southern region of Brazil consists of three water treatment and waterborne diseases. In the
states, namely Paraná, Santa Catarina and Rio case of Florianópolis, losses in water quality repre-
Grande do Sul. The region is occupied by approx- sent a constant threat to the tourism economic ac-
imately 28 million inhabitants and the climate is tivity; the beaches of the city are often closed due
primarily subtropical. Industrial activity occurs in to inadequate disposal of untreated debris lead-
large urban centers of the sector, the most frequent ing to risks for recreational use. In the city of Porto
being associated with the metal-mechanic industry, Alegre, Lake Guaíba, the main reservoir of drinking
clothing, footwear, and food. The vast plains are oc- water in the city, is impacted annually by large al-
cupied by large plantations of soybeans, rice, maize, gae blooms, resulting from the disposal of untreat-
and cattle ranching, whereas the rural mountain- ed sewage from the city itself and its hydrographic
ous regions are occupied by small farms involved basin, which comprises more 5 million inhabitants
in dairy, swine, and poultry production chains. Ed- along all the rivers draining into the lake. The larg-
ucational and income levels are usually above the er cities in the region, those with more than 200
Brazilian average, although great disparities exist. thousand inhabitants, often report more than 6,000
Paradoxically, the South is often noted for its high cases of gastroenteritis per year, this being one as-
human development indicators but is also facing pect of the severe impact of water contamination
deeper problems regarding water quality which is in public health. The whole picture is further ham-
being impacted by many different pollution sourc- pered by the industrial contamination already men-
es. Water resources are impacted by the excessive tioned. The municipalities in the Brazil-Uruguay
use of agrochemicals, supplementary nutrients (N border (most of them crossed by the Uruguay Riv-
and P) applied to crops, and industrial effluents er) are often impacted by no sewage treatment and
from a variety of sources, including metals and oth- lack of funds to increase their sewage treatment
er wastes. In the latter case, there are significant infrastructure.
cases of contamination by organic solvents and oth- In addition to these water quality problems,
ers from processing industries, such as tanneries there are also periodic droughts, especially in the
and paper mills, many times leading to shortening summer months, which threaten the water security
of water supply. However, the greatest impact on of large areas of Southern Brazil. Inefficient man-
water bodies is related to deficits in environmen- agement of multiple uses of water has already gen-
tal sanitation: although almost 90% of the popula- erated conflicts, especially between the urban pop-
tion receives treated water, up to 30% of the total ulation and the agrarian sector, aggravated at times
domestic sewage is not treated before being dis- of scarcity. This is worsened by a problematic man-
charged onto rivers and lakes. These statistics are agement and surveillance system. The structure of
even more serious considering that only the state of environmental monitoring, especially in the state of
Paraná has 70% of the treated sewage in its major Rio Grande do Sul is largely depleted. The current
cities, while only 10% of the sewage is treated be- inspection bodies do not have the financial resourc-
fore it is released to the rivers in the states of Santa es and sufficient staff to carry out their activities.
Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul.
This situation of contamination and losses
in water quality is even aggravated by several so- 7. The Water Quality Of Brazilian
cio-economic and institutional issues that came
along with the economic crisis of the last decades
Groundwater Resource
by the state governments within this region. The Groundwater plays an essential role in public wa-
western areas of Paraná and Santa Catarina states, ter supply in Brazil. According to the National Wa-
on the border with Paraguay and Argentina, are im- ter Agency (ANA, 2010), half of the country’s munic-
pacted by industrial swine manure as well as do- ipalities is totally (39%) or partially (13%) supplied
mestic sewage. The large metropolitan areas of the by aquifers, with a high predominance in small and
region, especially Florianópolis and Porto Alegre, medium-sized cities. In private water supply, the
109 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | BRAZIL

importance is even more significant, since it has of in open dumps and landfills have made these
been used to alleviate the severe problems of lack compounds a new and real concern in urban aqui-
of water of the public system, which is recurrent in fers, especially when present in free phase (pure
almost every Brazilian city, or even a low-cost water product) reaching complex aquifers such as frac-
alternative. Unfortunately, there is no estimate on tured ones (Hirata et al., 2015).
this exploitation and local studies have shown that There is no information on the situation of
this value is considerably higher than the percep- groundwater degradation in urban areas. Although
tion of society and government. This importance is Brazil has been a major agricultural producer, there
well exemplified in the Metropolitan Region of São is a real risk of aquifer degradation involving ni-
Paulo where public water supply is only 1%, but trogen fertilizers and some agrochemicals, mainly
12,000 private wells (60% illegal) extracting about herbicides and some insecticides. The lack of moni-
10 m³ s-1, provide water for 20% of the population. toring networks in critical areas and the deficiency
This "hidden statistic" is one of the causes of the of systematic studies still compromise the under-
government's low attention, including the lack of standing of the real situation on water quality. The
initiatives to protect the quality of aquifers. scarcity of planning and control of territorial occu-
The lithological, tectonic, and climatic charac- pation in Brazilian municipalities has also contrib-
teristics of Brazil create excellent conditions for uted to increase the problem of aquifer degradation.
good groundwater quality and mostly naturally po-
table. Except for high salinity observed in fractured
aquifers of the northeastern semi-arid region, natu- 8. Water Quality And Human Health
ral geochemical anomalies of toxic substances such
as F, Cr, and Ba are very limited in area. However, Safe and adequate water supply is a key resource
Fe and Mg have a more extensive occurrence and for social and economic development validated by
are generally associated with unconfined sedimen- many international organizations like the World
tary aquifers. In terms of anthropogenic contami- Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Ed-
nant sources, the situation is more complex and de- ucational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UN-
serves more attention by the government. Nitrate ESCO), the United Nations Environment Programme
is the single contaminant with a more significant (UNEP) and and the Food and Agriculture Organi-
presence in Brazilian aquifers. In urban areas it is zation of the United Nations (FAO). The United Na-
almost ubiquitous. This reflects the lack of sewage tions General Assembly and the United Nations Hu-
networks, which only covers 50% of the urban pop- man Rights Council recognized in 2010 the human
ulation in the regions where these systems exist, right for safe water and sanitation with a strong
due to the lack of maintenance or age. The problem participation of Brazilian government (Heller, 2015).
is not worse because the contamination has been However, the WHO & UNICEF (2017) report recently
restricted to the shallower portions of the aquifer pointed out that only 71% of the global population
(usually down to a depth of some tens of meters), (5.2 billion people) is supplied with a safe drinking
also allowing the use of its water in the deeper parts. water service available when needed and free from
Other contaminants in urban areas are petro- contamination. Therefore, 29% of the global popu-
leum-derived liquid fuels from leaks and poor oper- lation (2 billion people) still does not have access to
ation of service stations. Studies by CETESB (2009) this service. Data showed that only 65% of the pop-
in the state of São Paulo have shown that more than ulation in Latin America uses safe drinking water.
50% of these installations had leaks reaching the Sanitation service data are more critical. Only 39%
aquifers; however, the plume had limited dimen- of the global population (2.9 billion people) uses a
sions and impacts. Chlorinated solvents and heavy safe, managed sanitation service (i.e. excreta safe-
metals are products that are quite common in in- ly disposed of ‘in situ’ or treated off-site). For Latin
dustry and are responsible for the most massive America this percentage drops to 22%, the smallest
and most complex plumes of aquifer contamination value among all regions analyzed.
in the country. The high toxicity and large volume of Human health is both directly and indirectly
product handled by the industry and even disposed impacted by the water quality. Outbreaks of wa-
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | BRAZIL 110

terborne diseases (cholera and infections as lepto- (SNIS 2016). It is important to point out that 34 mil-
spirosis and viruses) common in urban areas may lion Brazilians still do not have access to drinking
occur as a result of contaminated or inadequate water pipelines in their houses. Recent data on san-
water supply, sometimes affecting thousands of itation service reinforces this regional discrepancy.
people and causing many deaths. Outbreaks of vec- On average, 51.92% of the population has access to
tor-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fe- sanitation facilities connected to a sewer system
ver, mosquitoes and intermediate hosts (snails) from which only 44.92% of wastewater is treated.
that harbor the worm that causes schistosomiasis At the North region only 10.45% of wastewater is
can also occur. Globally, there are nearly 1.7 billion connected to a sewer net, while this service covers
cases of childhood diarrheal disease every year. 78.57% in the Southeast region (SNIS, 2016).
This disease remains as one of the leading causes of The link between poverty and occurrence of wa-
child mortality and morbidity in the world, killing terborne diseases is very notorious. Population that
around 525,000 five-year-old and younger per year. lacks these services is predominantly located in the
However, a significant proportion of the diarrheal peripheral areas of urban centers and in areas of in-
disease can be prevented through safe drinking wa- formal urbanization, which indicates the need for
ter and adequate sanitation and hygiene (WHO & adopting integrated programs for urban develop-
UNICEF, 2017). ment. This picture is in accordance to some public
Besides this classical scenario of hazards re- health data. In 2013, 340 thousand people were hos-
lated with water quality, other impacts on human pitalized with gastrointestinal infections. If 100% of
health through unsafe water use may arise from the population had access to sewage system there
natural toxic agents (e.g. biological toxins, such as would be a reduction, in absolute terms, of 74.600
those from cyanobacteria and arsenic) or from an- hospitalizations, 56% of which would occur in the
thropogenic sources (pesticides, pharmaceutical Northeast region (Instituto Trata Brasil-DATASUS,
compounds or other chemical contaminants). In- 2014). Among waterborne diseases, diarrhea is the
direct impact is also related with water availabil- most frequently registered. Diseases related to fae-
ity in food production. For example, agricultural cal-oral transmission as diarrhea, enteric fever and
productivity is tied to food security consequences hepatitis A were responsible for 87% of the hospi-
in regions where severe droughts or flooding are talizations caused by inadequate sanitation service
frequent. from 2000 to 2013.
Considering water availability as the first step Water resources contamination including
to guarantee safe drinking water and sanitation drinking water supplies by human excreta remains
services, knowledge that Brazil has 12% of the a major human health concern. In contrast, the
world’s water availability leads to a false concept importance of toxic natural microorganisms and
of a wealthy water supply for different services as their toxins as cyanobacteria/cyanotoxins and tox-
human consumption, agricultural and industrial ic compounds, such as heavy metals and synthet-
use, recreation, and energy production. As report- ic organic contaminants, has only emerged in the
ed in this document, there are important regional last half of the XX century. This concern is connect-
disparities. While the North region reaches 68.5% ed to the recognition of artificial eutrophication as
of national water storage with 6.8% of Brazilian a developing problem since the 1950s. Human-led
population, water availability for human use in the increased eutrophication in fresh and coastal wa-
Northeast region is only 3.3% for 28.9% of the Bra- ter has caused enrichment of nutrients and other
zilian population. In the most populated and devel- pollutant. It has become much more widespread in
oped region of Brazil (i.e. Southeast), only 6% of some regions where the advance rates of agricul-
Brazil’s water availability supplies the highest per- ture, industry, and urbanization has experienced
centage of Brazilian population (42.7%) (Augusto et rapid increase, but without being followed by an
al., 2012). On average, 83.3% of Brazilian people is improvement in wastewater treatment. This arti-
supplied with safe drinking water, but the dispari- ficial eutrophication affects water quality, includ-
ties are great. In the Southeast region, this percent- ing higher incidence of microalgae and cyanobac-
age is 91.24% and in the North region, only 55.38% teria blooms, and has negative consequences to
111 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | BRAZIL

the efficiency and cost of water treatment. In Bra- ic pollutants due to their chemical characteristics,
zil, bloom occurrence is intensified by the fact that which may favor bioaccumulation along the aquat-
most aquatic ecosystems have the necessary char- ic food chain. Reservoirs are more susceptible to
acteristics for an intense growth of cyanobacteria contamination by metals and other pollutants be-
throughout the year. cause of their mobilization from flooded soils. One
Cyanobacteria cannot be considered pathogen- important potential consequence of damming is the
ic microorganisms in the classical sense because al- intensification in the production of methyl mercury,
though several strains of different species can pro- associated to the anaerobic degradation of organ-
duce bioactive and toxic secondary metabolites for ic matter. In tropical reservoirs, the Hg methylation
mammalians, a large part of these compounds will process is favored by the high water temperature
only be released into water after the cyanobacterial that favors the intensified microbiotic activity and
cell lysis. The quality of water may be more com- the reducing conditions in the hypolimnium (Con-
promised by the presence of dissolved cyanotoxins falonieri et al., 2010).
than by viable forms of cyanobacterial cells, which It is also important to consider that water avail-
could potentially be removed during the conven- ability in Brazil largely depends on the weather.
tional water treatment. However, this procedure Climate change studies have already indicated a
may lead to rupture of the cells of these microor- reduction in the amount of rain in the North and
ganisms due to the chemicals used during the treat- Northeast regions of the country of up to 20% by
ment process. Cyanobacteria are also often asso- the end of the XXI Century (Marengo, 2008). Chang-
ciated with the production of compounds that are es in weather and climatic patterns are affecting
responsible for taste and odor in drinking water. Al- human health by increasing morbidity, mortality,
though these compounds cannot be considered as disabilities, and by the emergence of diseases in
toxic as the cyanotoxins, their presence concerns previously non-endemic regions. Multiple factors
health authorities given that such compounds fre- are associated with the region’s vulnerability to cli-
quently result in rejection of the potable water by mate change, water quality and sanitation services.
the population, which in turn leads them to seek It is well known that water scarcity in the Northeast
alternative sources of water supply. Aquatic envi- region affects health of the population, and most
ronments located in areas of strong anthropogen- of the health problems derive from socio-environ-
ic impact had a high dominance of cyanobacteria mental processes caused by drought. Outbreaks of
and occurrence of blooms. Potentially toxic species vector and waterborne diseases can be triggered by
of cyanobacteria have been identified in at least 11 extreme events. There is some good epidemiologi-
out of 26 Brazilian states, the majority of these re- cal evidence of human health risk linked to climate
cords coming from multiple use reservoirs (Azeve- variability. Most of that evidence comes from ma-
do, 2005). In some cases, the cyanobacterial bloom laria studies. The number of cases of malaria has in-
can disappear from the reservoir before health au- creased in urban and rural Amazonian area under-
thorities consider them a human health risk. This going large environmental changes. El Niño drives
happens because the authorities may be unaware of malaria outbreaks and linkages between ENSO and
the potential damages resulting from cyanobacteria malaria is also reported for Amazonia (Oki & Kanae,
blooms and therefore they assume that the conven- 2006, Field et al., 2014). The link between malaria
tional water treatment system is capable of remov- and El Niño is due, in part, to the increasing amount
ing any potential problem. of surface water providing breeding sites for mos-
Water contamination by heavy metals and syn- quitoes. Unlike malaria, dengue fever (DF) is most-
thetic organic compounds as pesticides or pharma- ly an urban disease whose vector is also affected
ceutical drugs occur due to the inadequate waste- by climate. In Rio de Janeiro, a 1°C increase in the
water discharge into aquatic environments. Only monthly minimum temperature led to 45% increase
recently human exposure to certain heavy metals, of DF in the subsequent month, while a 10-millime-
such as methyl mercury (MeHg), cadmium (Cd), and ter rise in precipitation led to a 6% increase in DF in
lead (Pb) was considered a health risk. Aquatic sys- the following month (Gomes et al., 2012). Schistoso-
tems are particularly sensitive to synthetic organ- miasis (SCH) is endemic in rural and peripheral ur-
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | BRAZIL 112

banized regions of Brazil. It is highly likely that SCH ter load dilution, hydroelectric power generation,
will increase in a warmer climate. Hantaviruses as conservation of biodiversity, and health. In Brazil,
well have their prevalence increased due to El Niño a whole set of problems resulting from the inten-
and climate change events. Also, incidence of viscer- sification of human activities such as urbanization,
al leishmaniosis has increased in Brazil in associa- industrialization, agriculture, and energy produc-
tion to El Niño and deforestation (Field et al., 2014). tion leads to economic impacts of major propor-
The data discussed here shows that the relation- tions not yet properly measured but certainly very
ship between water and health conditions is usual- significant (Tundisi et al., 2015). For example, wa-
ly very complex and mediated by several factors of ter treatment for potable water production is ex-
physical-geographical, socio-environmental, eco- tremely expensive. About US$ 60.00 to US$ 90.00
nomic, and cultural nature. Indeed, all sectors of the is required for the production of 1,000 m³ of drink-
development nexus are interlinked through water. ing water from degraded sources. Instead, the cost
The growth of population and economic activities to treat pristine and uncontaminated waters may
are linked to water availability and use in agricul- reach a maximum of US$ 3.00 (Tundisi & Matsumu-
ture, industry, energy consumption, and domestic ra-Tundisi, 2010). However, there are other exter-
purposes. These factors contribute to an increasing nalities’ effects: hospitalizations due to waterborne
demand on the local and regional water supplies. diseases as well number of hours lost in school due
These forces are rapidly accelerating, often with un- to absence; number of hours of work lost due to ill-
predictable changes that represent new uncertain- ness from contaminated water or intoxication by
ties for water managers, which poses an increas- toxic substances.
ing risk for public health. At the same time, climate Recreation, tourism, public supplies are threat-
change is generating new uncertainties regarding ened by eutrophication and silting, which rep-
freshwater supplies and to the multiple sectors of resents the impact of nitrogen and phosphorus on
water use. As water availability becomes more un- untreated sewage and soil erosion. Between 30 and
certain, society will become more vulnerable to a 40 percent of the world’s food comes from the irri-
wide range of risks associated with inadequate wa- gated 16 percent of the total cultivated land; around
ter supply, including hunger and thirst, high rates one-fifth of the total value of fish production comes
of disease and death, loss of productivity and eco- from freshwater aquaculture; and current global
nomic crises, and degraded ecosystems. Therefore, livestock drinking-water requirements are 60 bil-
these challenges require an urgent implementation lion liters per day (forecasts estimate an increase of
of policies that will be able to serve as a tool for 0.4 billion liters per year). In Brazil, only 5.4 million
monitoring the access and use of good-quality and hectares are under irrigation considering its poten-
its relations with health indicators. tial of 29.6 million hectares. Runoff, soil loss, and
leaching of chemicals are particularly of great con-
cern considering the tropical climate with its high
9. Water Quality And Economic Impact intensity rainfalls in areas under fragile soils and
inadequate management practices.
Identifying and estimating the significance of im- Regarding chemical contamination of water
pact on water quality is of relevance to policy mak- from non-point pollution sources such as the agri-
ers seeking to promote sustainable water resources culture ones, the Brazilian market for pesticides is
management and wider economic development. A in the world’s top level. The industry of pesticides
failure to account for externality effects leads to a accounted for US$ 9.71 billion dollars, according to
misallocation of resources to an inappropriate mix 2012 data, referring to 823,226 tons of commercial
of land uses and inappropriate management of in- product and 346,583 tons of active ingredient added
dividual parcels of land (Moxey, 2012). The econom- to a total of 29.53 million tons of fertilizers. In ad-
ics of clean water is strictly related to its different dition, the impact of climate change, demography,
uses and shall be valued accordingly for: agricultur- land use and the impact of new and emerging con-
al irrigation, industry, households, water-based rec- taminants on surface and groundwater must also
reation (fish, wildlife habitat and navigation), wa- be considered. These pollutants are the result of the
113 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | BRAZIL

addition of drugs, cosmetics, antibiotics, hormones, specify maximum concentrations of various bioac-
nanomaterials, paints and coatings dissolved in riv- tive substances in drinking water by considering a
er waters, dams and groundwater and constitute minimum or tolerable reference risk (risk equal to
the most recent threat to human health, biodiversi- 10-6 of developing the disease in 70 years). The sec-
ty, and ecosystem functioning (Boxall, 2012). ond phase, risk management, is to assist developing
Reliable water resources database to promote countries in the preparation of their own national
recovery and conservation policies (ex. water and standards and regulations considering their spe-
nutrients reuse) is a must. Economic assessment cific environmental, social, economic, and cultural
of water pollution must be prioritized. Finally, ad- conditions. However, excessively restrict consider-
vanced technologies as big data, robotics, internet ations and policies may endanger public health by
of things, and 3-D manufacturing is making real the not allowing their effective application due to eco-
integration of urban, rural, and industrial spaces nomic reasons.
and societal activities. Predictive models and sim- In relation to traditional procedures within
ulations using big data tools shall be exploited to water companies, many industrialized countries
promote intelligent and long-term water quality recycle filtered backwash waters into the water
management. treatment plant with previous treatment to avoid
bacteria, protozoa (mainly Cryptosporidium sp.),
solids and organic matter to return to the plant. In
10. Water Quality And Surrogate Brazil, on the other hand, filter’s backwash waters
are recycled to the plant without treatment. This
Variables: The Alto Tietê River Basin generate a build up of those pollutants in the plant,
Several plans and studies have recently been made jeopardizing the production of safe water. This and
to critically evaluate the drinking water supply in other practices lead to severe problems in pub-
Brazil. Among them, there are different security lic water supply. For example, during the drought
plans for water supply in Brazil and international- that affected São Paulo in 2015 (Kelman, 2015), wa-
ly (SUS, 2012; Bensousson et al., 2012; PAHO/WHO, ter distribution companies adopted the emergen-
2012; BRAZIL, 2014). Even though these publications cy measure of stopping the water distribution to
outline good proposals, they did not consider fun- some sectors of the city in a time span ranging from
damental aspects of normalization, criteria for wa- a few hours to a couple of days. When water dis-
ter treatment, and the traditional Brazilian opera- tribution is interrupted and users continue to draw
tional procedures adopted by water companies. So, water from the network it causes negative pressure
the Ordinance MS-2914/2011 was based on foreign inside pipes and, due to precarious conditions (e.g.
standards or from the WHO Guidelines, without be- cracks), external matter is sucked inside the tubes.
ing adapted to social, technical, and public health of When the water distribution restarts, a huge mass
Brazilian conditions. of pollutants is delivered to users. Therefore, in-
The evolution of guidelines and standards re- termittent supply operation should be officially
lated to public health are not based only on epide- forbidden.
miological and toxicological studies. Technological The Metropolitan Region of São Paulo (MRSP)
development, socioeconomic, cultural, and hygiene comprises the city of São Paulo and 38 adjacent cit-
practices as well as public sensitivity and percep- ies. The whole area is 700 m above sea level and most
tion play an imperative role on stablishing guide- of it is situated in the Alto Tietê river basin (upper
lines for quality criteria to ensure health protection Tietê River basin). Currently, the population size is
of consumers (Hespanhol & Prost, 1994). The work about 21 million people and is estimated to reach
done by WHO is divided in two phases. The first 25 million by 2025. Surface water from superficial
phase is the preparation of WHO Guidelines, which reservoirs for drinking supply (Cantareira, Guarapi-
are done based on a risk-benefit approach by the ranga, Alto Tietê, etc.) totals 74 m³ s-1. Adding anoth-
Collaborating Centers of WHO (all of them situated er 10 m³ s-1 of ground water, the overall available wa-
in industrialized countries), according to their spe- ter is around 84 m³ s-1. About 80% of this water (67
cialty on one or several variables. These guidelines m³ s-1) becomes raw wastewater. Since the installed
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | BRAZIL 114

capacity of wastewater treatment is only 18 m³ s-1, Figure 1. Reduction of industrial loads between 1991 and 1994
the difference of 49 m³ s-1 is discharged without any
treatment into the waterways (i.e. rivers and res- 500,000 4,746 4,741 5,000

ervoirs). This critical situation will become worse 450,000 4,500


400,000 4,015 4,000
when the transposition of new waters from other

Organic load (BOD kg d-1)


water bodies (i.e. São Lourenço River, Paraíba do

Inorganic load (kg d-1)


350,000 359,241 3,500
358,648 2,784
Sul Reservoir, Billings Reservoir, Taiaçupeba, Itatin- 300,000 3,000
ga-Jundiaí, Guaió, Juquiá-Santa Rita and Itapanhaú) 371,668
250,000 2,500
bring an additional 20 m³ s-1 of water to the MRSP. 200,000 1,619 2,000
231,289
Considering water losses between 20% to 80% as 150,000 1,500
change from water to wastewater, this operation 150,534
100,000 1,000
will generate an extra 13 m³ s-1 of raw wastewater.
50,000 500
Several attempts were made to control water
0 0
pollution in this river basin. As early as 1953, a plan Initial Dec 91 Dec 92 Dec 93 Sep 94
involving the construction of six wastewater treat-
ment plants at secondary level was proposed by the Source: Herman & Braga, 1997.
city of São Paulo. Since then, many other plans were
proposed, however, only in the late 1980s and early
1990s, did the construction of the SANEGRAN Proj- Figure 2. Scheme of STAR program
ect take place. This project included, among oth-
Industries control
er features, a wastewater plant with a treatment
capacity of 63m³ s-1. With exception of the SANE- Selection Control
GRAM Project, none of the other projects were criteria regulation
accomplished.
In the mid 70’s, a state law in São Paulo (State Industries in Priority Effluent
Control
Law nº 997, 1976) required industries to discharge the basin industries characteristics
wastewater into the public sewer network whenev-
er possible. The organic load of 370,000 kg BOD d-1 STAR
at the outlet of the process was reduced to 150,000 implementation

kg BOD d-1 in September 1994, and the inorganic


load from 4,700 to 1,600 kg d-1 (Figure 1; BOD - Bio- Water quality Effluent
monitoring monitoring
logical Oxygen Demand). This program was abrupt-
ly ended by September 1994. Source: Herman & Braga, 1997.
In September 1991, the State Government
launched the Tietê Project and the STAR (Sistema
de Tratamento de Águas Residuárias or Treatment study, discuss, and elaborate regulations and stan-
System for Raw Wastewater) to clean up the rivers dards for water quality is strongly recommended.
and reservoirs of the Metropolitan São Paulo (Fig- These studies must be supported by scientists, mi-
ure 2). crobiologists, epidemiologists, toxicologists, biol-
The plans for drinking water are essential for ogists, and environmental engineers from Brazil
making the direct potable reuse a reality. Direct po- and abroad to produce regulation under Brazilian
table reuse should consider multiple complemen- conditions and not only the biased viewpoint from
tary barriers for water treatment, such as ultra- specialists from water companies and from entities
filtration, double pass reverse osmosis, advanced for health and environmental regulation. In addi-
oxidative process, active carbon, and disinfection. tion, if decision makers do not consider the source
This would make it possible to produce high quality control, the quality of water produced by conven-
water free from organic and inorganic matter, en- tional systems will degrade even faster. This is why
docrine disruptors, pharmaceutical pollutants, and source control must be mandatory in all water qual-
nanoparticles. The creation of technical groups to ity plans.
115 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | BRAZIL

A new generation for regulations is present- use today. The most widely known is the Biological
ed focusing on a new paradigm to reformulate the Oxygen Demand (BOD), which is used to evaluate
conventional methodology and criteria to evalu- the concentration of biodegradable organic matter
ate programs associated with public health, such in water, wastewater and industrial effluents.
as drinking water, water reuse, and sludge uses in Surrogate variables should be evaluated by
agriculture. This new generation of standards will their correlation with groups of variables repre-
make the water security plans more realistic and sented in terms of Qualitative Surrogate Attribute
will reduce monitoring costs. The term surrogate Prioritization (QSAP), which are to be certificated
is used to indicate a substitute for a group of vari- by Qualitative Microbial Risk Assessment (QMRA).
ables. Surrogate variables such as microorganisms, They should be no longer based in proposal of vari-
particles or substances are used to evaluate the ables by “specialists”. Figure 3 shows a conceptual
fate of pathogens in the environment. The discov- scheme for decision-making starting from the defi-
ery of the coliform Escherichia coli in feces and the nition of the specific theme to be regulated and the
methods used for its identification in contaminat- elaboration of a list of possible surrogate variables
ed waters revolutionized the sanitation field as the as a function of practical, biologic, and environmen-
E. coli could be used as a simple indicator of many tal aspects of interest. QMRA selects the most ade-
waterborne pathogenic organisms. If there is E.coli quate variables, determines the exposure level, the
in water, it is likely to have other contaminants as dose-response, and the risk.
well. Therefore, its use as surrogate variable helps Surrogate variables have been used to evalu-
to evaluate the efficiency of water treatment (Sin- ate the quality of reuse waters for potable uses.
clair et al., 2012). Several surrogate variables are in In Perth, Australia, the Beenyup Advanced Waste-

Figure 3. Conceptual structure of decisions to select surrogate variables (Sinclair et al., 2012)
trihalometanes (Edzwald et al., 1985)
Define Problem
Hazard Identification & Problem Statement

Detail Experimental Context


QS
AP Natural System or Engineered System? AP
QS
Transport & Survival or Removal & Desinfection?

Prioritize Surrogate Attributes (QSAP)


Practical Attributes Biological Attributes Environmental Attributes
Safety Funtional morphology Temperature
Available in high numbers Genetic / taxonomic similarity pH
Automation Hydrophobicity Relative humidity
Speed of Detection Resistance UV (sunlight and temp.)
Viability assay possible Genetic stability Organic content / nutrients
Benchmarked and validated Prior treatment Biofilm and native organisms
Common in environment Natural of release

QS
AP Develop List of Possible Surrogates AP
QS
Select Surrogate (s)

QMR
QMRA Conduct experiment A
Exposure Assessment

Dose Response & Risk Characterization


WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | BRAZIL 116

water Treatment was equipped with ultrafiltra- viewed as a key factor to limit algal growth. Prolif-
tion membranes, reverse osmosis, and UV radia- eration of cyanobacteria is thus prevented by the
tion disinfection. The effluent is infiltrated through lack of phosphorus in the freshwater ecosystems
managed aquifer recharge into the sandy aquifer of (Schindler et al., 2008). However, the increase in
Leederville, acting as environmental buffer, to pro- nitrogen load at higher rates than phosphorus can
duce drinking water (Australian Water Corpora- also stimulate eutrophication of estuarine, coastal,
tion, Project Water Forever-Whatever The Weather, and freshwater ecosystems around the world (Paerl
Beenyup Advanced Wastewater Reclamation Plant, & Dawnl, 2012). Besides eutrophication due to ex-
Perth, Australia, 2013). cess of phosphorus and nitrogen, another process
This discussion is relevant to introduce some is effectively acting as a stimulator of cyanobacte-
basic aspects about regulations in Brazil, focusing rial growth and water quality deterioration: the cli-
on the Alto Tietê River Basin in São Paulo. A deep matic changes in the hydrological system affecting
evaluation on how the command and control me- the physical and chemical environment, metabo-
chanics work in São Paulo led this discussion to lism, growth rates, and bloom formation (Paerl et
question whether the parameters adopted to con- al., 2011).
trol water quality are coherent to the current real- An increase of 2°C of the surface water tempera-
ity or not. This evaluation focused on how the En- ture can affect the growth rate of all phytoplankton
vironmental Sanitation Technology Company of the species and promote rapid increase in cyanobacte-
state (CETESB) monitors the industrial effluent dis- rial growth rates, causing bloom formation (Paerl
charges. In practical terms, it is notorious that the & Huismain, 2008). Large masses of cyanobacteria
standards adopted as reference in São Paulo, as will considerably change the water quality due to
well as in the rest of the country, are copied from the production of antioxidant enzymes and other
WHO guidelines and USEPA guidelines (which- excreta. This deteriorates the water quality in water
ever is the most restrictive, sometimes rounding bodies and has negative consequences to society as
some numbers). This premise goes, unfortunately, described earlier in this document.
against what WHO advocates about adapting their Toxic substances produced by some cyanobac-
guidelines to local standards for risk evaluation re- teria species can also be added to the dissolved or-
lated to water consumption. Hence, using pre-es- ganic matter content of the water and interfere with
tablished international values without further eval- pH and the physic-chemical equilibrium. This can
uation may jeopardize the main purpose of the risk also lead to mass killing of fish and aquatic birds
analysis, which is to guarantee the safety of the and consequently impact human health. Evidenc-
consumers. The main questions that come up in es of the impacts of climatic changes and its effects
the current scenario are: (1) are there compounds on the hydrological and water quality conditions
in Brazil that offer a risk to human health but are in lakes and reservoirs are accumulating during
not considered by either WHO or USEPA? and (2) the last 20 years. For example, a survey of 143 lakes
are people in Brazil investing precious resources to along a latitudinal gradient from Northern Europe
monitor compounds that may not even be present to Southern South America revealed an increase in
in local waters? cyanobacteria-driven phytoplankton biomass that
was directly related to temperature (Kosten et al.,
2011). As for the geographic distribution, Cylindros-
11. Emerging Risks For Water permopsis raciborskii has a strong capacity of ad-
aptation, prefers water temperatures above 20oC,
Quality: Climate Change and is adapted to low light conditions. Today, it is
Over the last 50 years, nutrient enrichment (partic- widespread in all continents. In Brazil, Tundisi et al.
ularly nitrogen and phosphorus) due to human ac- (2005) reported an effect of global change detected
tivities promoted accelerated eutrophication rates. at Lobo-Broa reservoir, in São Paulo State. Chang-
Urban, industrial, and agricultural developments es in the hydrological cycle due to climate change,
are the main causes of this process. In freshwa- causing extreme events such as longer drought pe-
ter ecosystems, phosphorus availability has been riods followed by heavy rains also has an impact on
117 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | BRAZIL

phytoplankton growth. This relation is described in Machado et al., 2016). The related studies in agricul-
more detail latter in this text (16. Case Study: Broa tural systems have detected a range of ECs gener-
Reservoir). ally reporting very low concentrations (i.e. in the
ng L-1 range) (Boxall, 2012). ECs of different classes
were detected in waters, such as triclosan, caffeine,
12. Emerging Risks For Water Quality: atrazine, paracetamol, atenolol, estrone, 17-β-estra-
diol, stigmasterol, cholesterol, and bisphenol. The
Agriculture (Pesticides, Herbicides, impacts of ECs in and from agricultural systems will
Hormones) be increasingly relevant in the near future under
In recent years, there has been increasing con- the scenario of land use, demographic growth, cli-
cern over the environmental risks of the Emerging mate change, global increase of food, fiber and en-
Contaminants (EC). ECs originate from a variety ergy demands and its impact on agricultural supply.
of product types including human pharmaceuti- In addition, intensification of agriculture practices
cals, veterinary medicines, nanomaterials, personal is expected for the next decades. Natural resourc-
care products, paints, and coatings. Some ECs are es such as land, water, air, and biodiversity will be
not necessarily new chemicals; they may be pre-ex- highly scarce and the spatial border separating ur-
isting substances in the environment, but whose ban from rural areas will disappear. Finally, poli-
presence and significance are only now being rec- cy-makers and scientists will have to cooperate to
ognized. Some examples are natural and transfor- create an initial environmental ECs priority list, to
mation products of synthetic chemicals formed in address the consumer demands for safety and the
the environment by biochemical processes in ani- lack of conceptual models for ECs in the environ-
mals, plants, and microbes. Data on ECs are often ment. Environmental risk assessment schemes al-
scarce and methods for detection in the natural en- ready exist in certain regions, however research
vironment may be non-existent or in its infancy. and policy strategies for ECs and agriculture in the
Evaluating the environmental fate and effects of tropics are urgently needed.
ECs includes research on compounds such as sur-
factants, antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals,
steroid hormones and other endocrine-disrupting 13. Reducing Vulnerability:
compounds (EDCs), fire retardants, sunscreens,
disinfection byproducts, new pesticides and its me-
Urban Areas
tabolites, and naturally-occurring algal toxins. De- Today, cities are the engine of the economic devel-
tection of these contaminants in environmental opment of several developed and developing coun-
matrices (water, wastewater, soils and sediments) tries. More than 50% of the world human popula-
is particularly challenging because of the low detec- tion is urban. In Latin America, 82% of the human
tion limits required, the complex nature of the sam- population is living in large metropolis, medium
ples, and difficulty in separating these compounds sized, or small cities. Therefore, water quality in ur-
from interferences. New extraction and cleanup ban regions is fundamental for sustainability. Vul-
techniques coupled with improvements in instru- nerability in cities is related to lack of sanitation
mental technologies to provide the needed sensi- especially in periurban regions and low percent-
tivity and specificity for accurate measurements age of wastewater treatment (in Latin America ap-
are very promising. proximately 20% of wastewater is treated). Another
Relevant contaminants are ECs (particularly vulnerable region of the urban ecosystem is the de-
hormones and anabolic steroids), antibiotics and forestation of uptown watersheds that supply wa-
other pharmaceuticals associated with wastewater, ter for the city. Deforestation leads to losses in the
and antibiotic resistance genes in bacteria and pri- quantity of water due to lack of replenishment of
ons (Snow et al., 2009; 2017). In Latin America and surface and ground supplies. At the same time, de-
tropical countries, very few studies exist and none forested areas also reduce water quality and more
of those is specifically targeted to agricultural envi- chemical treatment is needed to produce potable
ronments (Sodré et al., 2010; Campanha et al., 2015; water. (Tundisi et al., 2010).
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | BRAZIL 118

Integrated water resources management ac- pecially in light of the events of water scarcity in
counting for water quality and quantity in surface places where water resources have been tradition-
and underground sources are fundamental to re- ally considered abundant. Water has also emerged
duce the vulnerability of cities to water security. as one of the most significant causes of social and
The protection of riparian vegetation and the veg- economic tension between industry and local com-
etation at the sources of supply is an important munities, who in turn are often concerned with the
measure and promotes water replenishment and risks of depletion and deterioration of surface and
actively produces better water quality (Tundisi et groundwater resources. These conflicts directly in-
al., 2015). Wastewater treatment and water reuse fluence how society perceives mining operations
are other important measures of management with and in turn, the sector’s ability to achieve the social
economic and human health impacts. Water reuse license to operate. There are, in summary, several
is a low-cost opportunity to increase the current reasons for decreasing vulnerabilities by improv-
supply of water (Nasiri et al., 2013). Monitoring wa- ing water management: (1) increase access to wa-
ter sources around towns and in urban rivers is an- ter resources; (2) reduce management risks (e.g., by
other consistent sustainability measure. With such reducing water consumption and creating self-suf-
monitoring the information flows and people’s in- ficient water use, with decreasing need of new re-
volvement can be optimized and stimulate commu- sources); (3) decrease competition with other us-
nication in water science and water planning. ers, especially during events of scarcity and other
The implementation of urban forest parks could extreme conditions; (4) saving drinking water for
increase the sustainability and promote the cre- the preservation of life; and (5) build a positive re-
ation of green areas in cities while creating new op- lationship with stakeholders to ensure the license
portunities for education, research, water supply, to operate, among other factors.
atmosphere, and clean air. Equally important is the As a result, increasing the efficiency of water
protection of natural wetlands at the watersheds of use has been perhaps the main driving force for the
the urban areas. Introduction of new and advanced recent advances we have witnessed in the miner-
legislation at the municipalities could consider- al sector. The increase in water recycling and use
ably advance the reduction of urban vulnerability of saline, brackish, sewage and rain water, thus de-
as well as 1) stimulate programs of re-vegetation of creasing the use of noble water; the minimization
urban areas; 2) decentralize wastewater treatment of leakages and losses in industrial operations are
systems; 3) use rain water in new buildings and some improvements that deserve to be highlighted.
houses; 4) introduce new environmental courses The increasing participation of the mineral sector
at schools. Reducing vulnerability to water security in finding solutions for water scarcity in nearby ur-
at urban ecosystems implies in biogeophysic, eco- ban areas is worth mentioning as well (Ciminelli et
nomic, and social measures with a strong scientific al., 2015). There are various industrial experiences
and technological background and a robust partici- showing that increasing efficiency in the use of wa-
pation of the people. ter results in the reduction of costs and generation
of new revenues. This creates a virtuous cycle and
stimulates new and ambitious investments.
What are the main challenges? The first one
14. Reducing Vulnerability: is perhaps the fact that the sector is quite hetero-
geneous and therefore good practices should be
The Mineral Sector disseminated among all. Another topic to be ad-
Water has been recognized as a strategic issue for dressed is the increasing number of artisanal min-
the mining sector as most processes need consider- ing or garimpo, often illegal, in many regions in
able amounts of water to operate. The participation Latin America. This creates uncontrolled impacts
of the mineral sector in the overall water consump- on water resources and great vulnerability in the
tion is small (< 10%) compared to the agribusiness mined territories. The impacts of artisanal mining
(> 70%) (ANA, 2017). However, the local interfer- are not caused by the lack of technology. It is rath-
ences on water resources cannot be neglected, es- er a social and economic issue related to the lack of
119 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | BRAZIL

education and infrastructure, poverty and inequal- to fish and other marine products, but it is a very
ity, prevalence of economic interests, and the fail- broad term that considers, in the case of aquatic
ure of the state to implement public policies and biodiversity, both the set of the continental, coastal
law enforcement. The 2015 failure of a tailings dam and marine aquatic ecosystems and the organisms
in Brazil added pressure on water/tailings manage- living or spending part of their biological cycle in
ment, and more emphasis on less-dependent water such environments. Compared to knowledge about
operations, such as dry processing and dry tailing diversity loss in the oceans, mainly of fish species of
disposal. economic interest, little or almost nothing is known
Finally, it is clear that water security is essen- about other marine animals, and much less indeed
tial for the mineral industry to remain competitive about freshwater species.
and cannot be achieved without a commitment of Only very recently did Brazil wake up to the bio-
all stakeholders. Cooperation between different diversity crisis. Perhaps, the only attempt to mea-
production chains, between industry, society, and sure biodiversity loss in light of the continuous
governmental agencies is required. An integrated, aggravation of the eutrophication problem is the
systemic, and multidisciplinary approach to as- Garças time-series. This record includes 21 years
sess water quality and availability should rely on of uninterrupted monthly phytoplankton sampling
a sound, well-designed, and reliable database (e.g. and simultaneous evaluation of environment char-
real-time metrics). Sharing experiences, knowl- acteristics of the Garças reservoir, a system located
edge, competencies, information, and responsibili- at the Parque Estadual das Fontes do Ipiranga locat-
ty should be expected in the future. This approach ed in the southern part of the São Paulo municipality.
is increasingly needed to guarantee a good quality Furthermore, it revealed that of the 36 species of Cy-
of life and the sustainability of shared territories. anobacteria known to occur in the reservoir in 1997,
only four remained after an abrupt loss between
December 2003 and October 2008, which resulted in
15. Reducing Vulnerability: loss of species richness and diversity. Among those
remaining, Planktothrix agardhii formed 97-98% of
Biodiversity the total biomass in November-December 2005. Mi-
Brazil is well known to be one of the richest coun- crocystis aeruginosa, Microcystis panniformis and
tries in the world in terms of biodiversity. We are Cylindrospermopsis raciborskii were the other spe-
very proud to know Brazil as a megadiverse coun- cies, all of them Cyanobacteria that resisted the res-
try. However, what is effectively known about this ervoir’s rising eutrophication.
megadiversity? Since 2009, Brazil is showing some Some measures are broadly used in various
concern about the preservation of its biodiversi- parts of the world in an attempt to mitigate eutro-
ty, mainly the aquatic one. Also in 2009, a research phication and loss of biodiversity. Among them are:
project carried out by the Brazilian Institute of Ge- better management practices with optimization in
ography and Statistics (IBGE) warned the risk of ex- the use of fertilizers, reduction of intensive live-
tinction of at least 238 species, which created some stock, improvement of sewage treatment, resto-
concern of governmental, non-governmental, and ration of lost wetlands in order to increase P and
private institutions. This concern was also demon- N retention capacity (mitigation of nutrient diffuse
strated by the Federal Ministry of Environment that loads), reestablishment of buffer zones along rivers
admitted, at the time, that failed the country’s at- (riparian forests) and the water restriction by hu-
tempt to improve the fishing resources manage- mans (intensive agriculture retreating in more vul-
ment to significantly benefit the sustainable pro- nerable areas, improvement of the water recycling
cess and, consequently, the aquatic biodiversity in hydrographic basins, improvement of efficiency
scenario in the country. of water allocation for their distinct uses and more
In 2018, still very little was done to improve this consistent drought control)
scenario such that Brazil may start a cycle of great The challenges to be faced in Brazil will demand
progress in fishing activities without being proper- a lot more effort than that taken in Europe. The Bra-
ly prepared. However, biodiversity is not restricted zilian situation is aggravated by the lack of a con-
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | BRAZIL 120

solidated scientific base for the country and the on the ecosystem services were already quantified
warmer climate, a fact that may lead to ineffective (Periotto & Tundisi, 2013).
management strategies of the aquatic ecosystems. As described by Paerl & Huisman (2008), glob-
It is absolutely urgent, therefore, to establish exten- al warming affects patterns of precipitation and
sive multidisciplinary research programs that will drought. The changes in the hydrological cycle en-
pursue, as far as possible, syntheses, inferences, hanced cyanobacterial dominance. Heavy rains af-
and the production of information based on the ter extensive drought periods increased nutrient
monitoring of time-series, as well as the definition input promoting phytoplankton growth. During pe-
of possible scientific gaps regarding the Brazilian riods of drought, residence time increases and pro-
biodiversity. motes blooms. Another consequence of this process
is the prevention of silica discharge into the reser-
voir reducing diatom growth due to extensive peri-
16. Case Study: Broa Reservoir ods of drought. The Lobo/Broa reservoir had a pre-
dominance of Aulacoseira italica during many years
The Carlos Botelho Hydroelectric Power Plant-UHE due to silica concentrations of up to 5mg/l. This ef-
(Lobo/Broa reservoir) was selected in 1971 for a fect of silica reduction was described by Schindler
program of ecological research. In the last 47 years, (2006) in a review of eutrophication. As a result, the
continuous sampling and studies allowed a thor- Lobo/Broa reservoir is currently eutrophic. To our
ough characterization of this artificial ecosystem understanding this is a clear evidence of an effect
and its watershed (Tundisi & Matsumura Tundisi, of global changes at a local and regional freshwater
2013). The functioning mechanisms of the reser- ecosystem.
voir were well studied which allowed for measures The concepts and the scientific information
to maintain good quality of water (i.e. low conduc- produced in last 47 years form the basis of the en-
tivity – average 10-20μScm–1) by means of periodic vironmental planning. The selection of criteria was
turbulence with re-oxygenation of the whole water based on general mechanisms of functioning and
column, high saturation of oxygen (80-100%), low the hierarchical structure of the sub-systems. These
retention time (< 20 days), and an extensive mac- criteria were chosen on the following principles:
rophyte growth in the headwaters, ultimately pre- i. The maintenance of basic processes in the wa-
venting high nutrient load and eutrophication. The tershed such as the input of allochthonous ma-
phytoplankton composition was consistent with terial of organic origin in the rivers, and the low
the oligomesotrophic characteristic of the reser- residence time in the reservoir.
voir: predominance of diatoms and chlorophyceae ii. The maintenance of spatial heterogeneity
with a maximum of 10μg/l chlorophyll. However, in based on the diversity presented by the gallery
the winter of July 2014 the following changes were forests along the streams, and the compart-
observed: a heavy bloom of cyanobacteria occurred ments with macrophytes in the upper reservoir.
for the first time in the reservoir. This cyanobacte- iii. The maintenance of adequate water quality in
ria (Cylindrospermopsis raciborskii) is an invasive surface water (rivers, small shallow wetlands,
species. Very high chlorophyll levels (up to 100μg/l) reservoir) and groundwater.
were measured and high concentration and input iv. The regulation by law and projects of environ-
of phosphorus was also detected. The explanation mental education on the use of (1) the reservoir
for this sudden appearance of blooms can be at- and (2) the watershed for recreation or other
tributed to the following factors: 1) increase of up activities.
to 2°C above the average water temperature during v. The stopping of all activities known to cause se-
the winter; 2) lower rainfall during summer (30% vere damage to the regional ecosystems, such
less of the yearly average of 1.500 mm) and increase as mining operations; removal of vegetation;
in the retention time (from <20 days up to 60 days) introduction of exotic fish species in the reser-
in order to maintain volumes for hydroelectricity voir (introduced at first in the decade of 1960);
production (Tundisi & Matsumura-Tundisi, 2018). overfishing, and activities that could disturb
Effects on the overall economy of the region and wildlife in general.
121 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | BRAZIL

This planning produced a comprehensive syn- of adequate environmental occupation sanitation


thesis of activities based on the following systems infrastructure. Therefore, from the 70s on, this for-
and compartments: merly isolated reservoir started to be a part of its
i. The watershed urban mesh.
ii. The reservoir itself and its interaction with the Historical recovery of the environmental chang-
watershed es was obtained from “clues” provided by distinct
iii. The small rivers and streams, and the pattern environmental markers recorded in the sedimenta-
of drainage ry cores that included 100 years of reservoir history.
iv. The vegetation and the gallery forests The eutrophic state dated since 1960 and was strong-
v. The macrophyte vegetation in the small rivers ly associated with the input of domestic effluents
vi. The soil conservation and the growth of the land use and occupation im-
vii. The water quality; its conservation; sanitary pact. Eutrophication triggered the occurrence and
problems increase of potentially toxic Cyanobacteria blooms
in the reservoir. Such organisms merit some great
Considering the wider context, the environ- preoccupation since they are the cause of several
mental planning of the watershed consisted in per- economic, environmental, and health problems as
manent assistance of small communities in mon- described earlier in this volume. Historically, at the
itoring the quality of water supply (surface or beginning of the 80s, Cyanobacteria blooms started
groundwater) and in techniques of studying region- to be much more frequent, impairing the treatment
al ecosystems. Recreation, small scale agriculture, process of the water intended for public supply.
and fishing, are the main activities in progress in Throughout years 1990 and 1991 a phase of severe
the watershed and the reservoir. The guidelines for eutrophication in the reservoir accompanied the
these actions as well as the programs of environ- first reports of gastrointestinal disorder cases due
mental education introduced a permanent system to Cyanobacteria (Dolichospermum solitarium) that
of monitoring aiming to reestablish the lost envi- affected the population that relied on the reservoir
ronmental services. water. Contamination markers related to inorganic
micropollutants concentration (e.g. APH, aromatic
polycyclic hydrocarbons) were also detected in the
17. Case Study: Guarapiranga Reservoir reservoir. Decrease in the C:N ratio from upstream
to downstream in the reservoir and the consequent
Guarapiranga is an emblematic reservoir in Bra- increase in the total nitrogen, δ15N values suggested
zil and represents a challenging scenario between an increase in the sewage discharge at the final por-
good water quality and urbanization. Construction tion of the reservoir. High coprostanol (fecal sterol)
of this reservoir for the generation of electric pow- values confirmed the sewage presence in 70% of
er for the city of São Paulo started in 1906 and fin- the sampling stations used for the reservoir water
ished two years later. Due to the rapid growth of ecological quality evaluation. In the upstream area
the Metropolitan Region of São Paulo (MRSP) with of the reservoir, superficial layers presented low-
a population reaching about 800,000 inhabitants, er fecal influence and a mixture of C and N sourc-
Guarapiranga became one of the most important es ranging between algae and macrophytes. These
water public supply systems in 1929, besides be- sources were represented by intermediate values of
ing responsible for other environmental services C:N ratio and δ13C and by the dominance of campes-
to the region. Until the mid-60s, changes in the soil terol, an algal sterol.
use and occupation did not affect the rural scenario Inefficiency of collection and treatment sys-
that dominated the reservoir margins. Despite the tem for domestic effluents showed that the reser-
population and urban growth having changed their voir has been punctually but intensively receiving
pace between 1940 and 1960, it was largely after the high organic loads from its contributing water-
70s that an augmented urban occupation developed sheds during the last three decades. Added to the
and accumulated high densities of piled-up allot- scenario of a decrease of water availability between
ments and slum nuclei all in parallel to the absence the years 2013 and 2015, the Guarapiranga reservoir
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | BRAZIL 122

is close to overcoming its depuration power. Thus, voir can be obtained in Bicudo & Bicudo (2017). The
the reservoir will transition from an eutrophication Guarapiranga reservoir is a legacy of challenges and
and intense sewage influence to a fecal contamina- lessons to be strongly considered during the pres-
tion situation in which its ecological functions will ervation and recovery of all reservoirs threatened
collapse. Very detailed information about the reser- with urbanization.

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WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | CANADA 127

Canada

Despite Canada's low population density


and its vast land mass, it experiences
considerable problems in relation to
water pollution in some areas. Although
the country’s freshwater is relatively
abundant, much of it is found in the
lakes or rivers of the north that flow into
that area, while over 90% of the human
population lives on a narrow strip of the
southern border with the United States,
where water is relatively scarce. The
few smaller rivers and lakes in southern
Canada are used as drinking water
sources as well as for waste disposal,
which increases water quality problems.
The growing scarcity of water as a result
of climate change and the increased
use of water by men portend greater
problems for the future.

Toronto City from Lake Ontario, Canada © iStock


128 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | CANADA

Past, Present and Future Challenges to Management


of Freshwater Quality in Canada
D. W. Schindler

Summary
Despite Canada’s low population and large land mass, there are significant water pollution
problems in some areas. While the country’s freshwater is relatively abundant, much of it
is in northern lakes or rivers that drain north, over 90% of the human population lives in a
narrow band along the country’s southern border with the USA, where water is relatively
scarce. The few modest size rivers and lakes of southern Canada are used for both drink-
ing water sources and waste disposal, amplifying water quality problems. Increasing scar-
city of water as the result of climate change and increasing human water use promise in-
creased problems in the future. A diversity of large polluting industries cause water quality
problems even in northern areas with low populations, often via long-range atmospheric
transport of pollutants that biomagnify to toxic levels in aquatic organisms that are used
as human food. A poor and disjointed Canadian regulatory framework has caused a history
of weak water policies, where protecting water quality has been subsumed by protecting
industrial development. Droughts, floods and fires caused by climate warming and increas-
ing populations are expected to exacerbate future water quality problems, even in remote
areas. Increasingly complex effluents, population and industrial growth and climate change
make it imperative that streamlined and coherent national water policies are developed,
and investments in water research are increased.

Introduction
Water Quantity- a factor in water quality
Incredible as it may seem, many of Canada’s water quality problems occur because of insuf-
ficient water quantity, causing the same water bodies to be 5used for both water withdraw-
als and disposal of wastes. As population and per capita water demand increase, climate is
slowly sapping the amount of available water in some areas, intensifying usage of the re-
mainder. There are historical reasons for this.
Before the mid-20th century, little attention was paid to either water quality or quanti-
ty issues in Canada. Perhaps lulled by the seeming abundance of freshwater and the rela-

D. W. Schindler d.schindler@ualberta.ca is the Killiam Memorial Professor of Ecology, Emeritus at the University of Alberta. His path-breaking work
on the impact of pollutants on entire ecosystems has earned him recognition as one of the most distinguished scholars of Canada. He is an elected
fellow of the Royal Societies of Canada and Great Britain and the National Academy of Science, Engineering and Medicine of the U.S.A. He is the recipient
of virtually every major international environmental award – including the Stockholm Water Prize, the Volvo Environmental Prize and the Tyler Prize
for Environmental Achievement – as well as numerous national and regional recognitions. Much of his recent work has had significant impact on the
formulation of Canadian water policies.
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | CANADA 129

tively low human population in a large country, wa- ity problems. Canada’s runoff per unit area is only
ter quality was generally considered as a secondary about half that of truly water-rich countries like
policy issue, and priority was given to developing Finland, Brazil and Russia (Sprague 2007).
cities and industries while ignoring their water There were some astute early measures to pro-
demands or water polllution. This “Myth of Abun- tect freshwaters. The Boundary Waters Treaty of
dance” has caused many important regional Ca- 1909 and the subsequent International Joint Com-
nadian problems to be obscured. For example, the mission (IJC) were set up by the governments of
southern parts of Saskatchewan and Alberta known Canada and the USA to resolve water disputes in
as “Palliser’s Triangle” are effectively semi-deserts, the Laurentian Great Lakes and other cross-bor-
where average evapotranspiration exceeds aver- der lakes and rivers. As mentioned earlier, the Great
age precipitation, so that there is no net runoff. The Lakes watershed is home to 33 million people in the
area was settled in the early 20th century as a result USA and Canada, and is a center for industrial ex-
of overly optimistic marketing by the Canadian Pa- pansion. As a result, it has been the focus of Canadi-
cific Railroad during a series of wetter than aver- an water issues for most of the past century.
age decades. The railway was anxious to promote In the early years of the 20th century, disputes
agriculture in order to have customers to make it resolved by the IJC were primarily related to wa-
profitable. After rapid settlement in the early 20th ter use and modification of water flows rather than
century, since the late 1920s there has been a steady water quality. This changed in 1969 when the IJC
exodus of people, leaving numerous abandoned reported a several year study of pollution in the
ghost towns” (Jones 1987; http://www.googlesight- Great Lakes that became a cornerstone of freshwa-
seeing.com/2011/06/ghost-towns-of-the-palliser- ter research in Canada. The above study (IJC 1969)
triangle/). A similar area where evapotranspiration warned that both the US and Canada needed to de-
equals or exceeds average precipitation is in Brit- vote more effort to identifying and solving Great
ish Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, where rapid popu- Lakes pollution problems. Most urgent at the time
lation growth and increasing orchard and wine in- was the rapid proliferation of algal blooms in lakes
dustries compete for scarce water. Erie and Ontario, which were the subject of public
In the Laurentian Great Lakes basin, although concern on both sides of the border.
water is abundant, only about one percent of the Canada’s response to the IJC 1969 recommen-
lakes’ water is renewed on average each year. If wa- dations was to form two completely new institutes
ter withdrawal exceeds this value, lake levels will devoted to freshwater research. One, the Canada
decline. As a result, high population density and in- Center for Inland Waters (CCIW), was to be devot-
dustrial demand require conservation measures, ed primarily to work on the Great Lakes. It opened
as will become obvious later in this chapter. Cana- its doors in 1967 as a part of the federal Department
dians tend to forget that 85% of the human popu- of Energy, Mines and Resources. It was eventually
lation and industry occur in a 100 km band along placed within Environment Canada, a new federal
the US border, whereas most large rivers in Cana- government department that was formed in 1971.
da flow north, with only their headwaters in popu- The second institute, the Freshwater Institute
lous latitudes (Figure 1). Outside of the Laurentian (FWI), had a broad general mandate for freshwa-
Great Lakes, research and monitoring of freshwater ter research. It was initially managed by the ven-
in Canada has been sporadic. Finally, the large pro- erable Fisheries Research Board of Canada (FRBC),
portion of Canada’s surface covered with water is but had a branch housed in CCIW to supply biolog-
deceptive, with low temperatures and evaporation ical expertise to the physical and chemical units at
masking the fact that precipitation is low to moder- CCIW. The FRBC liked to place its institutes on uni-
ate. The true measure of water that can be used sus- versity campuses. The FWI was placed on the Uni-
tainably is the annual runoff per unit area. In this versity of Manitoba campus, as the result of the uni-
respect, Canada does not rank unusually high. Ca- versity offering to lease the FRBC a building until
nadian areal runoff is similar to the USA and China, it could construct its own. The FWI opened in Sep-
two countries that have rather severe water qual- tember,1966. Its first director was Waldo E Johnson,
130 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | CANADA

12/11/2018 Average annual runoff in Canada, 1971 to 2013


Figure 1. Average annual runoff in Canada, 1971 to 2013

Note(s): Runoff data were derived from discharge values from hydrometric stations with natural flows for the period 1971 to 2013
below the boundary delineated on the map and 1971 to 2004 above the boundary line with the exception of the Arctic Islands where
estimates were taken from Spence and Burke, 2018.
Source(s): Statistics Canada, Environment, Energy and Transportation Statistics Division, 2017, based on data from Environment
and Climate Change Canada, 2015, Water Survey of Canada, Archived Hydrometric Data (HYDAT), www.ec.gc.ca/rhc-wsc/default.as-
p?lang=En&n=4EED50F1-1 (accessed December 3, 2015); Spence, C. and A. Burk, 2008, "Estimates of Canadian Arctic Archipelago
runoff from observed hydrometric data," Journal of Hydrology, vol. 362, pp. 247-259.

Map description
a senior fisheries scientist. About 1/3 of the FWI’s very experienced Swiss scientist, to lead the Eutro-
The title of the map is "Average annual runoff in Canada, 1971 to 2013"
personnel were initially devoted to the study of eu- phication Section and the branch at CCIW, respec-
trophication, a new venture for the FRB. Fortunate- tively. A conspicuous feature of the FWI plan was
This map is a runoff map with each line corresponding to an amount of annual runoff (in millimeters).
ly, the Board was not bound by civil service rules, to form a field station where experimental nutrient
On this map, a darker colour indicates a higher amount of runoff. Category 1 (dark blue) is greater
and was able to assemble an excellent staff in a control policies could be tested in whole ecosystem
than or equal to 3,000 mm of runoff, Category 2 (medium­dark blue) is 2,000 mm to less
very short time, largely by international recruiting. settings.
than 3,000 mm, Category 3 (medium blue) is 1,000 mm to less than 2,000 mm,
Johnson recruited J. R.Vallentyne, then a professor The Fisheries Research Board of Canada (FRBC)
Category 4 (medium­light blue) is 800 mm to less than 1,000 mm, Category 5 (light blue) is 600 mm
at Cornell University, and Richard Vollenweider, a was founded as the Biological Board of Canada in

https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/170321/mc-b001-eng.htm 2/3
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | CANADA 131

1912, changed to the FRBC in 1937. The FRBC was of the British North America Act proceedings, the
managed by a group of prominent aquatic scien- Canadian Constitution is much weaker in many re-
tists at arms-length from government. The FRBC spects than most national constitutions. It reflects
was world renowned for its excellent science to the fact that the various Canadian provinces, which
back sound water policies, both with respect to had independently controlled their own resources
fisheries and more generally (Hayes 1973). With the until that time, jealously insisted on retaining most
IJC’s 1969 report, policy makers were concerned of their former rights. After constitutional deliber-
that the many issues identified transcended the ex- ations, provincial retained control over natural re-
pertise and mandate of the FRBC. The organization sources, including water, except for national parks,
was also considered aberrant by politicians, in that indigenous reserves, military bases and northern
it did not report to a government ministry. This was territories, which are federal responsibilities. The
changed in 1973, when FRBC personnel were trans- federal government retained the regulation of fish-
ferred to Environment Canada and the FRBC was eries and cross-border waters, although in some
reduced to an advisory role. By 1979, the Depart- cases management was transferred later to prov-
ment of Fisheries and Oceans was separated from inces under federal-provincial agreements. Some
Environment Canada, leaving different agencies in municipalities have also formed their own regula-
charge of water and fish, a strange dichotomy that tions. The result has been an incoherent and incon-
exists to this day. The FRBC was disbanded, leaving sistent hodge-podge of standards, guidelines and
federal research on water subject to political whim. objectives, with some jurisdictions less protective
The Province of Ontario also had concerns than others. The environment is general and water
about freshwater. Its new Ministry of Environment in particular are considered by all levels of govern-
was formed in 1972 with water as its primary man- ment to be of secondary importance to economic
date, and a field station in Dorset, Ontario was add- development.
ed soon after. Some of Canada’s most valuable re- In 1970, in response to continuous disputes over
search on eutrophication and acid rain was done at provincial vs federal jurisdiction over water, and
the Dorset Field Station, which exists today as the increasing public concern, Parliament passed the
Dorset Environmental Research Consortium, a gov- Canada Water Act, which formulates how feder-
ernment-university-NGO partnership that still spe- al and provincial jurisdictions are to share the re-
cializes in freshwater research. sponsibilities over water. It has been moderately
Also in the1960s, Ontario started several new successful (Booth and Quinn 1995) and remains in
universities, including Laurentian (1960), Lakehead effect, with some minor changes from the original
(1965) and Trent (1966) which would also develop version. It remains subject to the personal whims
strong environmental and aquatic programs. Old- and relative aggressiveness of federal and provin-
er universities in Canada also began to strengthen cial politicians, and is generally still too weak to re-
their water programs about that time. liably protect freshwater.
Aided by rapid developments in chemical Canadian water quality is generally protected
methods and equipment during the mid 20th centu- by guidelines and objectives rather than regula-
ry, talented individuals in these groups made rapid tions. These are not legally enforceable, and are of-
progress in identifying and solving water pollution ten much more lenient than studies of toxicology or
issues in Canada. All in all, the 1960s were the age of human health recommend. “It is apparent that wa-
awakening in Canadian concern about freshwater. ter-related policies were more often incidental to
other pursuits like fisheries, transportation and ag-
riculture than a coherent subject area in their own
Canada’s Regulatory Nightmare right until after the Second World War (Quinn 2013).
Quinn (1985) provides a more detailed account
One of Canada’s long-term water policy problems of early water policies, and (Boyd (2003) discuss-
is that the Canadian Constitution does not explic- es in detail many of the flaws in Canadian environ-
itly recognize water, or which agencies are respon- mental laws that result of jurisdictional discrep-
sible for administering it. Formed in 1967 as part ancies. An attempt was made to gain consistency
132 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | CANADA

Eutrophication
in the treatment of water issues across the coun- In the mid-20th century, there was growing concern
try with the federal water inquiry of 1984 (Pearse about the increases in algal blooms that were ap-
et al. 1986) which crafted 55 recommendations that pearing in fresh and coastal waters of many coun-
became the basis for draft federal legislation. The tries. It was the focus of much of the above-men-
legislation was tabled in 1987, but an election inter- tioned IJC (1969) study in the St Lawrence Great
vened and it was never passed. It was subsumed by Lakes, where widespread algal blooms were in-
more inclusive but ill-defined policy foci, such as creasing in lakes Erie and Ontario, as well as coastal
the “Green Plan,” the “Ecosystem Approach” and the areas of the other Great Lakes. Eutrophication be-
concept “Sustainable Development,” which were came the focus of much of the early work of the two
(and still are) so vague and ill-defined that almost new Canadian laboratories, CCIW and FWI, as well
any treatment of water can be justified. Since that as the Dorset Field Station.
time, cutbacks to federal freshwater research and a Eutrophication had been the subject of a 1967
new emphasis on resource development have slow- symposium sponsored by the US National Academy
ly de-emphasized freshwater relative to other re- of Sciences (NAS 1969). No consensus was reached
sources, despite repeated warnings that this is fool- on how to control the problem. A prominent Swiss
ish (Pearse and Quinn 1996; Bakker and Cook 2011). limnologist, RA Vollenweider, attended the meet-
Another problem has been that most of the ing. He was recruited by FWI to head its Great Lakes
provinces do not have either high calibre water re- branch in Burlington, Ontario. Vollenweider had
search institutions or officials capable of interpret- just finished a comprehensive review of the prob-
ing cutting edge aquatic science. In an era of rapid lem for the OECD, which concluded that increased
increases in industrial development, as well as rap- inputs of phosphorus and nitrogen to lakes was
id increases in scientific understanding, the result the primary cause of the eutrophication problem.
has been a record of unreliable, unsound and un- His unpublished tome (Vollenweider 1968) became
predictable decisions that affect freshwaters. the basis for attempts to control eutrophication in
Despite all of these problems, Canada has main- Europe and North America. Vollenweider later re-
tained a reputation as one of the countries with the ceived the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achieve-
best water quality. The OECD ranks Canada fourth ment for this work.
among 17 countries in water quality, with only Swe- The nutrient bases of Vollenweider’s models
den, Norway and Austria ranked above Canada, all were explored in whole lake experiments in north-
receiving an “A” grade (the USA ranked much lower western Ontario at the Experimental Lakes Area
on the OECD list, earning only a C). https://www. (ELA), another part of the FWI research program
conferenceboard.ca/hcp/Details/Environment/ on eutrophication. In a first experiment begun in
water-quality-index.aspx . 1969, Lake 227 was fertilized with phosphorus and
With expanding population and industry, plus nitrogen but not carbon, to test the theory promot-
the regional or global threats of climate change, ed by the soap and detergent industry in the 1960s
acid rain and long-range atmospheric transport of and early 1970s that carbon inputs must also be
toxins, it is urgent for Canada to improve its envi- controlled to successfully curb eutrophication (Ca-
ronmental policies and their scientific underpin- nadian Research and Development 1970). Their con-
nings. This has been the topic of a number of schol- clusion was based on the results of short-term labo-
arly books (most recently Bakker 2007; Brooymans ratory experiments. At the time of fertilization, Lake
2011), but the problem is largely ignored by politi- 227 had the lowest concentration of dissolved inor-
cians and the public. ganic carbon ever measured in freshwater. The lake
In the remainder of this article, I briefly outline quickly produced a large algal bloom once fertilized
some of the major water quality problems in Can- with phosphorus and nitrogen. The algae’s shortage
ada, progress that has been made in solving them of carbon was found to be supplied from the atmo-
since the mid-20th century, and problems that loom sphere, quickly leading to the abandonment of the
in the foreseeable future. carbon theory. The experiment also exposed how
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | CANADA 133

unreliable poorly-scaled small scale experiments tional to phosphorus concentrations in all lakes, re-
could be at predicting sound management policies gardless of the amount of nitrogen or carbon added.
for whole ecosystems (Schindler et al. 1972). He hypothesized that in-lake mechanisms were re-
Based on Vollenweider’s study, the IJC had pro- sponsible for enhancing inputs of carbon and ni-
posed that controlling only one element, phos- trogen from the atmosphere, supplying enough of
phorus, could control or reverse the eutrophica- these two elements to keep algal blooms propor-
tion problem. This was reflected in the 1972 Water tional to phosphorus loading. This conclusion went
Quality Agreement between the two countries. Oth- unchallenged until the new millennium, when the
ers believed that nitrogen must also be controlled, controversy over whether nitrogen inputs to lakes
which posed a much more expensive problem. In an also need to be controlled resurfaced (Lewis and
experiment to test these two theories, Lake 226 at Wurtsbaugh 2008). Nutrient additions to small,
the ELA was split in half with a heavy nylon curtain. short term bottle and mesocosm experiments con-
Nitrogen and carbon were added to both halves, but tinue to used as evidence that it is necessary to de-
phosphorus was only added to one half. Only the crease nitrogen inputs in lakes to control eutro-
side receiving phosphorus produced an algal bloom phication. However, such experiments ignore the
(Schindler 1974). The strikingly visible difference long-term (years) responses of the biogeochemi-
between the two basins resulted in phosphorus in- cal cycles of lakes to correct deficiencies in nitro-
put being reduced in Canada, the USA and many Eu- gen (Schindler 2012; Schindler et al. 2008; Higgins et
ropean countries. In the Great Lakes, amendments al. 2017). As Vitousek et al. (2010) pointed out, much
to the IJC-sponsored water quality agreement in of the evidence used to promote nitrogen control
1983 required even more stringent control of phos- is based on experiments that show only proximate
phorus http://www.ijc.org/en/activitiesX/consul- (short term) nutrient limitation, whereas decreas-
tations/glwqa/guide_3.php . ing eutrophication requires reductions in ultimate
Significantly, these early agreements ignored (long-term) nutrient limitation, which in the case of
growing evidence that non-point sources like ag- lakes, is phosphorus.
ricultural runoff were contributing significantly In an extreme experimental test, in 1989 nitro-
to the phosphorus input to the lakes, even though gen fertilizer ceased to be added to Lake 227, while
they were already important in lakes Erie and On- phosphorus addition continued. The lake has re-
tario. The federal Pollution from Land Use Refer- mained eutrophic for the ensuing 29 years. Despite
ence Group (PLUARG) studied this problem for sev- the predictions of critics (Scott and McCarthy 2010),
eral years in the 1970s. Their 157 page final report: nitrogen fixation has supplied enough nitrogen to
http://agrienvarchive.ca/download/PLUARG_pol- produce algal blooms in proportion to phosphorus,
lution_great_lakes_land_use.pdf in 1980 spelled out even though proximate nitrogen limitation is ob-
the problem in some detail, pointing out that water served for about half the summer each year (Pater-
quality objectives for lakes Erie and Ontario could son et al. 2011; Higgins et al. 2017). As further proof of
not be achieved without considerable reduction in the effectiveness of controlling phosphorus, many
non-point sources. However, following the earlier lakes in North America and Europe have now recov-
policies to control point sources, eutrophication ered from eutrophication by reducing phosphorus
fell from political fashion and funds for research inputs alone, although in some cases, phosphorus
and monitoring were cut back by both Canada and return from sediments has delayed recovery by sev-
the USA. As a result, although all of the Great Lakes eral years (Schindler et al. 2016).
have achieved the water quality objectives for phos- More recently, eutrophication has become a
phorus that were set in the 1970s (Dove and Chapra problem in western Canada, largely as the result of
2015), algal blooms still plague areas of lakes Erie non-point sources such as feedlots (Chambers et al.
and Ontario with the highest phosphorus input 2001). Phosphorus inputs and algal blooms on Lake
from land use (Michalak et al. 2013). Winnipeg more than doubled in the 1990s, as the
Schindler (1977) summarized results of the result of intensive use of fertilizers and expansion
whole lake experiments with nutrients at ELA, not- of the pork industry in the Red River watershed, in
ing that algal blooms eventually became propor- both Canada and the USA. To exacerbate transport
134 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | CANADA

of nutrients from land to water, the Red River had wetlands, damaged internal alkalinity generation
five floods in 15 years that were at the one in 100 mechanisms, and increasing nitrate or organic an-
year flood level (Schindler et al. 2012). Eutrophica- ion levels (reviewed by Jeffries et al. 2003). Little at-
tion has also been widespread in the western prai- tention has been paid to monitoring lake recovery
ries, as the result of lakeshore development in ar- in the past two decades.
eas where many lakes are eutrophic under pristine It was first reasoned that nitrogen oxides would
conditions, so that even rather small human influ- not need to be controlled because the nitrates
ence results in hypereutrophy and nuisance algal formed in the atmosphere before deposition would
blooms. The lakes are shallow, and geologically sus- be neutralized by plant uptake once they reached
ceptible to recycling of phosphorus from sediments the biosphere. However, examples in Europe
(Orihel et al. 2017). showed that with increased deposition of nitrates,
forests quickly became saturated, leading to runoff
of nitric acid and removal of base cations from soils
Acid Rain (Dise et al. 2011). Canada still pays little attention
to oxides of nitrogen, ranking 16th of 17 countries
Although some of the first research on the effects of in per capita emissions: https://www.conference-
acid rain was done in Canada (Gorham and Gordon board.ca/hcp/Details/Environment/urban-nitro-
1960), it was not recognized as a widespread prob- gen-dioxide-concentration.aspx?AspxAutoDetect-
lem here until well after it had been documented CookieSupport=1 .
in Scandinavia and the USA in the late 1960s. Thor- Controlled additions of nitric acid to small ex-
ough study of acid rain in Canada did not begin perimental lakes also indicated that biological up-
until the mid-1970s, when it became obvious that take and neutralization of nitrogen was low in the
emissions of sulfur and nitrogen oxides in south- absence of phosphorus, causing acidification to oc-
ern Canada and the northeastern USA were causing cur (Rudd et al. 1990). Studies in eastern Canada
precipitation with average pH below 5 to fall in ac- and other areas with base-poor soils showed that
id-sensitive parts of the Canadian Shield that con- long-term emissions of nitric acid have depleted
tained thousands of lakes, and soils poor in the base base cations, particularly calcium, enough to threat-
cations that neutralize acid rain in less sensitive ar- en forest regrowth after logging (Watmough et al.
eas (Schindler et al. 1981). 2005). Once soils become sufficiently calcium de-
Initial research was focused on toxicity of hy- pleted, runoff of the element from watersheds caus-
drogen ion to sport fish, using short-term bioas- es calcium depletion in lakes as well, leading to the
says. It was concluded that damage did not begin to elimination of Daphnia and other calcium-sensitive
occur until lakes had been acidified to pH<5. How- crustaceans and molluscs. The Daphnia are often re-
ever, controlled acid additions to small, intensively placed by Holopedium, an acid-tolerant crustacean
studied experimental lakes showed that damage to which has a large gelatinous carapace that is more
important organisms lower in the food web and to difficult for zooplanktivores to ingest. The resulting
key biogeochemical processes occurred at pH val- high abundance of Holopedium, has led some to re-
ues as high as 6, ten times less acidic than labora- fer to the result as the “jellification” of lakes (Jezior-
tory toxicity tests had indicated (Schindler et al. ski et al. 2008). Due to weak policies to reduce nitric
1985; Rudd et al. 1988). Once such damage was rec- oxide emissions in Canada, the acidification prob-
ognized, emissions of sulfur oxides in Canada were lem remains, although reduced in intensity.
reduced rapidly. Sources, although large, were few While additional reductions in acid rain are de-
in number, and most industries made voluntary re- sirable in eastern Canada, since the 1980s new acid
ductions. Recovery in Canadian lakes did not begin rain concerns have developed in western Canada,
to occur until reductions were also made to Amer- where acidifying emissions from Alberta’s oil sands
ican sulfur oxide emissions, beginning in 1990. The industry are carried over acid-sensitive Precam-
recovery of lakes has been uneven, because of sev- brian Shield in northwestern Saskatchewan (Whit-
eral factors, including declining base cation concen- field and Watmough 2012). Spring acid pulses have
trations, drought-induced mobilization of SO4 in also been recorded in some streams in the oil sands
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | CANADA 135

region, although the impacts on species and biodi- the mine. Current plans include the perpetual use
versity are still largely unknown (Alexander et al. of freezing technology similar to that used for ice
2017). The acidification problem is expected to in- rinks to keep the arsenic trioxide frozen in place.
crease as oil sands mining continues to expand. One The remediation cost to taxpayers was estimated to
large contributor to acidifying emissions is the high approach 1 billion dollars in 2013 https://www.cbc.
emission of nitrogen oxides from large trucks used ca/news/canada/north/yellowknife-s-giant-mine-
for hauling bitumen. cleanup-costs-to-double-1.1313262 .
The Colomac Mine was an open pit gold mine 222
km north of Yellowknife. It operated for only four
Toxic Mine Drainage and Emissions years between 1990 and 1997, and was never profit-
able. A 76 ha tailings lagoon contained by an earthen
Mining has been one of Canada’s traditional in- dike is contaminated with cyanide, toxic metals and
dustries, and related pollution has caused region- ammonium, which if the dike is breached, would
al problems in many areas of the country, the re- spill into the Indin River, the drinking water supply
sult of lax regulation. Over 10,000 abandoned mines for downstream Dene communities. Remediation
were already on file at the turn of the new mille- was estimated to cost $70 million in 2002 (Auditor
nium (Mackasey 2000). These range from coal to General of Canada 2002). Remediation is reportedly
base metal, oil sands, diamond and uranium mines. complete, done in partnership between the federal
Weak regulations and unscrupulous developers government and Indigenous communities https://
have often left restoration of abandoned mining www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/
sites incomplete, leaving leakage of toxins and oth- services/federal-contaminated-sites/success-sto-
er problems for future generations of taxpayers to ries.html#colomac . Monitoring continues at the
look after. Many of the mines have cleanup costs site, but no actual costs or assessment of success
that are so prohibitive that instead of reclama- have been released.
tion, they have been relegated to “perpetual care,” Among the most acutely affected mining sites
where government departments prevent leakage is the vast oil sands area of northeastern Alberta,
of toxins and otherwise maintain the integrity of where over 4800 km² can be surface mined for bi-
sites without correcting the problem. In 2002, the tumen. Tailings ponds alone had a total area of 220
reported annual cost of such care was $20,000,000 km² in 2017, containing 1.2 x 1012 liters of toxic tail-
for the Northwest Territories alone (Auditor Gen- ings behind earthen dikes as high as 90 m. While
eral of Canada 2002). The cost of reclaiming aban- current rules state that tailings ponds must be
doned mines of the North was estimated to be over ready to reclaim within 10 years after mining ceas-
$700,000,000. es, the rules are not enforced. There are fears that
The most notorious recent reclamation prob- reclamation of the oil sands will be too costly, and
lem is the Giant Mine, which extracted gold from that companies will simply walk away, leaving the
underground and open pit mines only 5 km north burden on Canadian taxpayers. In 2015, only 1.9 bil-
of Yellowknife, NWT. Between 1948 and 2004, when lion dollars in securities had been guaranteed by
the mine was in operation, it produced over 220,000 oil sands companies, but recent revelations under
kg of gold. In response to public concerns about re- the Freedom of Information Act indicate that the
leases of toxic arsenic dust to the atmosphere, in true cost of reclamation is estimated to be $260
1951 the mine started to blow arsenic trioxide dust billion https://www.thestar.com/news/investiga-
into underground shafts that had been mined, rea- tions/2018/11/01/what-would-it-cost-to-clean-up-
soning that permafrost would keep the arsenic albertas-oilpatch-260-billion-a-top-official-warns.
permanently in place. When the mine closed, over html . Only 0.6% of this sum has been set aside by
237,000 tonnes of arsenic trioxide had been stored the industry, suggesting that reclamation will large-
in this way. However, during the same period, cli- ly be funded by the public, if it is done at all.
mate has warmed at least 3 degrees in the area, Water from the oil sands tailings ponds is
and subsidence of permafrost is causing the stored acutely toxic to a wide variety of organisms. Tarry
arsenic to be mobilized as water is flooding into floating bitumen sludge is lethal to birds and ani-
136 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | CANADA

mals entering the ponds, and high concentrations breached, sending 21 billion liters of water and tail-
of naphthenic acids, polycyclic aromatic hydrocar- ings into watercourses leading to Quesnel Lake, an
bons, toxic trace metals and other pollutants are important sockeye salmon nursery. The dam was
known, in addition to salinity that is far higher than found to be poorly constructed, and a major crack
federal or Alberta guidelines. had been reported in 2010. Some attribute the di-
There is concern that seepage from the tailings saster to cutbacks in the British Columbia govern-
ponds could contaminate the water of the nearby ment’s frequency of mine inspections a few years
Athabasca River. A recent study (Frank et al. 2014) earlier. The investigation is still ongoing, and to
used a “fingerprinting” technique based on similar- date no charges have been laid. Meanwhile, recent
ities in suites of organic compounds to prove that reports of a healthy salmon return indicate that
contaminants from the tailings ponds are reaching the effects of the spill may have been insignificant
the river. Estimated seepage is 6.5 million liters per https://www.wltribune.com/news/sockeye-salm-
day. The resulting concentrations of contaminants on-return-in-droves-to-quesnellake-watershed/ .
in the river are small because they are diluted by an Unless regulations are tightened, a disastrous tail-
average of 780 m-3s-1 of water from upstream of the ings pond release is highly likely in Canada, espe-
oil sands, leading industry spokespeople to assure cially in the oil sands, where dikes and tailings
the public that all is well. Airborne emissions from ponds are much larger and more toxic than those in
tailings ponds are also believed to be a significant the above examples.
regional source of semi-volatile organic pollutants
(Parajulee and Wania 2015).
The scenario where a breach in a tailings pond
dike is caused by an engineering flaw or natural Mercury
disaster is never discussed, although such failures
have produced expensive and ecologically devas- Few pollutants have caused as great a problem in
tating results in tailings ponds elsewhere (Blight Canadian waters as mercury. Foremost among in-
and Fourie 2005), even though amounts of tailings famous mercury problems is the case of the Wab-
released were much smaller than could occur in igoon River and the Indigenous communities of
the oil sands. A dike breach in a large oil sands tail- Grassy Narrows and Whitedog in northern Ontar-
ings pond would be particularly destructive if it oc- io. In 1962, Dryden Chemical Company began oper-
curred in winter, so that releases were under ice, as ating a chlor-alkali process to produce sodium hy-
they could be carried into Lake Athabasca and the droxide and chlorine for bleaching paper during
Slave River, eventually reaching Great Slave Lake production by the nearby Dryden Pulp and Paper
and the Mackenzie RIver. Company. Both companies were owned by the Brit-
On October 31, 2013, a tailings pond dike was ish multinational, Reed International.
breached at the Obed Mountain Coal Mine, dis- The effluent from the chlor-alkali plant was dis-
charging into the Athabasca River 1100 km upstream charged directly into the Wabigoon-English River
from its mouth, releasing 670,000,000 liters of coal system downstream of Lake Wabigoon. In 1970, ex-
slurry into the Athabasca River. Ice was forming on tensive mercury contamination was discovered in
the river at the time, and ice-cover prevented effec- the river system, leading to closure of the commer-
tive monitoring of the progress of the spill as it was cial fishery, and destroying the livelihoods of Grassy
carried downstream, or of its toxicity to aquatic life. Narrows and nearby Whitedog, two First Nations
The spill, which included arsenic, toxic metals, and over 100 km downstream that relied on fish for sub-
PAHs, was traced the entire length of the river, into sistence and income from guiding sport fishermen.
Lake Athabasca (Cooke et al, 2016). The company In March, 1970, the Ontario provincial government
was fined $4.5 million dollars by federal and pro- ordered Dryden Chemical Company to cease dump-
vincial governments. ing mercury into the river system. It was estimated
In a similar, but unrelated incident, on Au- that over 9,000 kg of mercury had been dumped by
gust 3 and 4 2014, the tailings pond dike at Mount the company into the Wabigoon-English river sys-
Polley copper and gold mine in British Columbia tem. The company stopped using mercury cells in
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | CANADA 137

its chlor-alkali process in October 1975 and closed Major mercury poisoning problems for Indige-
a year later. nous People in Canada also follow construction of
By the time the problem was discovered, the hydroelectric reservoirs (Calder et al. 2016). Stud-
river system and its fauna had been severely con- ies in Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec have all shown
taminated. Predatory fish contained over 10 ppm of that soils and vegetation inundated when reser-
mercury, almost all of it in the toxic methylmercury voirs are flooded release mercury and enhance
form. Early investigators of the problem recom- methylation by bacteria (Bodaly et al. 1984; Kelly
mended mitigation (Rudd and Turner 1983, Parks et al. 1997; Schetagne et al. 2013). As in the case of
and Hamilton 1987), but authorities believed that Grassy Narrows, methyl mercury is biomagnified in
the river would clean up itself over time. Over 5 de- food chains to reach concentrations in fish that re-
cades, mercury in fish has declined to about 1/3 of quire consumption restrictions if human health is
initial values, but concentrations are still too high not to be jeopardized.
in fish for human consumption (2-4 ppm in preda- Mercury in fish typically remains high for 10-30
tory species), and mercury in both fish and bottom years after a reservoir is flooded (Rosenberg et al.
sediments are several times higher than in nearby 1995; Munthe et al. 2007). Fish are therefore lost as
reference lakes. Moreover, concentrations in both a resource to subsistence users for at least two gen-
fish and sediments have reached a plateau that has erations, a clear violation of treaty rights as well as
changed little in the past two decades (Rudd et al. human rights.
2017). Even airborne mercury concentrations have in-
Rudd et al. (2017) found that there were still po- creased enough to cause problems at some remote
tential sources of mercury at the original site of the locations. Mercury is released by high temperature
chlor-alkali plant, as well as nearby waste disposal combustion, because it is very volatile. After emis-
sites, and there are current plans to remediate the sion, it can be carried in the atmosphere for long
area. But sediments in the river and lakes down- distances before being re-deposited, contaminating
stream of the pulp mill are still highly contaminated lakes in remote areas (Chételat et al. 2015). Lakes in
with mercury which is recycled each year, and re- such regions often contain predatory species that
mediation plans have not been finalized. are long-lived but slow growing, ideal conditions
As a result of eating contaminated fish, by the for biomagnifying mercury to high values. For ex-
late 1960s people from Grassy Narrows and White- ample, Kidd et al. (1995) found that long food chains
dog were found to have symptoms of Minimata Dis- in northern lakes often biomagnified mercury con-
ease. Mercury concentrations were often over 100 centrations to values in lake trout that required
ppb in the blood of people from the First Nations, consumption advisories. Similar results have been
and values over 200 ppb were recorded in some found throughout the Canadian arctic during the
cases. Neurological symptoms and other disorders Canadian arctic contaminants program (Muir and
related to mercury poisoning were observed that DeWitt 2010; Chételat et al. 2015).
were similar to those observed following mercury While the global fallout of atmospheric mercury
exposure at Minimata Bay, Japan. Symptoms were is known to have increased by about 3- fold since the
still widespread when the community was exam- industrial revolution (Fitzgerald et al. 2005), recent
ined in 2010 (Takaoka et al. 2013). In 2018, an epi- studies have also implicated regional sources. Kelly
demiology report showed that the general health et al. (2010) found elevated mercury concentrations
of all ages in the community was poorer than in (as well as concentrations of many other contami-
other indigenous communities, and in rural com- nants) in snow within a 50 km radius of the center
munities at large https://www.cbc.ca/news/can- of oil sands upgrading. Radmanowich (2012) found
ada/thunder-bay/grassy-narrows-health-report- slightly higher concentrations of mercury in water
release-1.4675091. The report has still not been and fish in the Athabasca River downstream from
publicly released. As a result of the accumulating the same sources. Hebert et al. (2013) found that far-
evidnece, in 2017 the province of Ontario allocated ther downstream on the Athabasca River, the eggs
funds for remediation of the Wabigoon River sys- of fish-eating birds have increasing concentrations
tem, but it is still in the planning phase. of mercury in eggs over the past 30 years. The In-
138 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | CANADA

digenous communities that rely on fish or birds are Atlantic Ocean. It was observed in Lake Ontario as
being affected by the resulting consumption adviso- early as 1835, but Niagara Falls prevented it from
ries. Unfortunately, Canada’s current plan for con- entering other Great Lakes until it entered via the
trolling emissions of greenhouse gases http://pub- newly completed Welland Canal sometime in the
lications.gc.ca/site/eng/9.825953/publication.html 19th century. Lampreys spread slowly through the
includes building the equivalent of 100 large hydro- other Great Lakes, reaching even Lake Superior by
electric reservoirs before 2040, largely on northern 1938. In the 1940s, lamprey populations exploded,
rivers where they would contaminate fish and oth- devastating the lucrative lake trout, lake whitefish
er aquatic animals with mercury, violating human and cisco fisheries which once yielded 7 million kg
rights and the terms of Canada’s numbered treaties, of fish per year. Within a few years, fisheries were
which are supposed to protect the rights of Indige- reduced to about 2% of pre-lamprey values. Expen-
nous People and guarantee their ability to subsist sive lamprey control programs have been in place
on their traditional lands (Schindler 2018). for several decades, but have not eliminated the
Climate warming can exacerbate mercury pol- species http://www.glfc.org/sea-lamprey.php.
lution. In general, forests and wetlands sequester According to NOAA, “Species such as the zebra
mercury that enters from the atmosphere, pre- mussel, quagga mussel, round goby, sea lamprey,
venting almost all of it from entering downstream and alewife reproduce and spread, ultimately de-
waters. However, when forests burn, they release grading habitat, out-competing native species, and
much of the mercury stored in soils and vegetation, short-circuiting food webs. Non-native plants such
causing elevated concentrations in downstream as purple loosestrife and Eurasian watermilfoil
waters (Kelly et al. 2006). Forest fires in Canada have also harmed the Great Lakes ecosystem.
have already increased greatly in area and intensity, Zebra mussels and quagga mussels Dreissena
so that more mercury will enter downstream water polymorpha and D. bugensis are believed to have
bodies. Swanson et al. (2006) also found that the in- been introduced in the late 1980’s by ballast water
vasion of native fish communities by alien rainbow from transoceanic ships carrying veligers (larvae),
smelt Osmerus mordax caused mercury to increase juveniles or adult mussels. Zebra and quagga mus-
in predatory fish, due to alteration of the food chain. sels are capable of heavily colonizing both hard and
soft surfaces, including, docks, boats, break walls
and beaches. Colonies of these species are also re-
Invasive Species sponsible for clogging intake structures in power
stations and water treatment plants, where remov-
One of the most pernicious of freshwater problems al is costly and time consuming. Zebra mussels have
in Canada has been the introduction of “biological continued to invade other waters, including small
pollutants” by the accidental or deliberate intro- lakes in Canada and the USA, and in 2014, Lake Win-
duction of species from other continents. Again, nipeg. They can live several days out of water, and
the Great Lakes are the best documented exam- are probably transported between lakes by small
ple, with over 180 non-native and invasive species boats, where they attach to hulls, motors and an-
known to be introduced, the most of any ecosys- chors. Many areas have introduced compulsory
tem in the world (Pagnucco et al. 2015). Unfortu- cleaning stations, where boats entering the area
nately, the damage caused by invasive species often must be cleaned and inspected before entering, in
goes beyond the ecological. They can threaten hu- an attempt to slow the spread of zebra mussels.
man health and hurt the Great Lakes economy by Invading mussels provide another example of
damaging critical industries such as fisheries, ag- how water quality can be affected by factors other
riculture, and tourism. Reviewing this topic would than chemicals. The invasive mussels filter water
take many pages, but I will give a few examples to much more rapidly than native species, clearing the
illustrate the importance to the Great Lakes and hu- water and excreting nutrients near the bottom of
mans in the watershed. the lake. This has caused a proliferation of attached
The first of many problem invaders was the sea algae, such as Cladophora, in nearshore areas, in a
lamprey Petromyzon marinus, which is native to the so-called benthic shunt”. The algal mats are not ef-
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | CANADA 139

fectively consumed by herbivores, instead senesc- sources was contaminated by runoff from a nearby
ing and blowing ashore where they cause nuisance feedlot during the flooding. A chlorinator was not
windrows and taste and odor problems (Hecky et working, and plant operators were neglecting mon-
al. 2004). itoring safeguards and deliberately fudging data.
Many of the other invaders have harmed the The community had a boil water order in place for
Great Lakes aquatic community, which bears little several months, and the incident was the subject of
resemblance to its pristine condition. a judicial inquiry http://www.archives.gov.on.ca/
en/e_records/walkerton/index.html.
In March, 2001, flu-like symptoms became com-
mon in residents of North Battleford, Saskatche-
Canada’s Drinking Water wan, a town of 14000. The town’s water intake ac-
tually lay downstream of the effluent from its water
Most large cities in Canada have excellent drinking treatment plant. Eventually, the problem was diag-
water, with modern treatment plants designed by nosed as cryptosporidiosis, the result of contami-
water quality specialists, and supported by state of nation of water supplies by Cryptosporidium par-
the art electronic monitoring and control systems vum, which like Giardia is resistant to chlorination.
that are upgraded frequently. Source water can be a Three people died and several thousand were ill.
problem, particularly in the western prairies, where It too was the subject of a judicial inquiry http://
major rivers are used for both water supplies and www.publications.gov.sk.ca/freelaw/Publications_
waste disposal. As a result, there have been some Centre/Justice/NorthBattlefordWater/NorthBattl-
rather classic cases of waterborne disease. efordWaterInquiry.pdf.
As one example, the City of Edmonton began Eventually, it was discovered that feedlots in
experiencing increasing reports of flu-like symp- the upper reaches of the North Saskatchewan Riv-
toms in late 1982, when about 700,000 people were er were the probably source of Cryptosporidium
served by two drinking water treatment plants. The oocytes for both Edmonton and North Battleford
outbreak continued for several months, with the (Hrudey and Hrudey 2004). Numerous other towns
city first denying any responsibility. Eventually, the and cities draw their water from the river, and are
outbreak was diagnosed as giardiasis, the result of at similar risk. Given that the highest concentra-
contamination of water supplies with the protozo- tions of large feedlots and highest applications of
an Giardia lamblia, which is resistant to chlorina- manure to cropland are in Alberta, rivers in that
tion. Over 800 cases of giardiasis were confirmed, province appears to be particularly vulnerable to
and it was estimated that the total number of peo- contamination https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/
ple infected was probably an order of magnitude pub/16-002-x/2008004/c-g/manure-fumier/map-
larger. It was found that the water intake of one of carte001-eng.htm.
the city’s water treatment plants was downstream The drinking water problem is particularly
of storm drainages that combined sewage and stor- acute in the southern prairies, where source wa-
rmwater during storm events (Hrudey and Hrudey ter is scarce and often of poor quality. Early settlers
2004), As a result, water treatment and water dis- had great difficulty in coping with the lack of pota-
posal in the city were completely overhauled, in- ble water in southern prairie regions. In 1960, the
cluding UV treatment to kill protozoans. Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration (PFRA)
In contrast, many small communities have began to recommend that prairie farmers construct
limited expertise and resources, relying on infra- their own “dugouts” to catch runoff water at snow-
structure that is decades old and in bad repair, melt that could be used as water supplies http://
and poorly trained personnel. For example, Walk- www.pfra.ca/doc/Dugouts/Miscellaneous/Dug-
erton, Ontario suffered an outbreak of E. coli infec- outsForFarmWaterSupplies_1985.pdf. Many dug-
tion in May of 2000, just after a large rainstorm had outs are still in use, but many have been plagued
caused flooding in the area. Seven people died, and by contaminants, algal blooms and toxin, taste and
over 2000 were ill. Investigations revealed that one odor problems. In the vicinity of major cities, many
of the groundwater wells that were used as water rural communities are simply piping water from
140 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | CANADA

the large modern water plants, but this is not pos- west of Yorkton, Saskatchewan in 1999. Yellowquill
sible for communities far from such modern facil- had a boil water advisory in place since 1985. Nei-
ities. Typically, over 1000 boil water advisories are ther a conventional water treatment plant nor a
in place in Canada, with some unchanged for a year reverse osmosis (RO) plant had been successful.
or even several years http://www.watertoday.ca/ Reverse osmosis membranes clogged within hours,
map-graphic.asp. requiring unacceptably frequent flushing. The
Worst of all are the drinking water problems of problem was dissolved organic carbon of 25mg L-1,
indigenous communities, which lie under federal which also caused the water to be dark brown in
rather than provincial purview, usually with very color.
low operating budgets. In 2018, 91 First Nations Peterson reasoned that the dissolved organic
have long-term drinking water advisories in place. matter probably contained large refractory mol-
The federal government has recently promised to ecules that were difficult to break down, quick-
eliminate the advisories by 2021, but this seems un- ly clogging the RO membranes. He added a long
likely with over 1000 First Nations having water biological pre-filter to the water intake. He also
treatment plants, many of them needing replace- used state of the art reverse osmosis membranes.
ment or upgrading. The Parliamentary Budget Of- The result was successful, and in 2004, the wa-
fice has estimated that the goal will cost $3.2 billion. ter treatment plant was officially opened. http://
Several problems, some of them unique, hin- ammsa.com/publications/saskatchewan-sage/
der the eradication of drinking water problems in clean-water-flowing-yellow-quill-taps
First Nations. Many have poor water sources, with Local operators were trained to run the plant
high turbidity, high dissolved solids or high nutri- and it has been serving the community since that
ent concentrations, or high arsenic. Standard ap- time. Peterson’s IBROM (Integrated Biological and
proaches to disinfecting waters with high turbidi- Reverse Osmosis Membrane) plant has now been
ty or dissolved solids involve adding large amounts duplicated at several other First Nations, where it
of chlorine. Many indigenous communities do not has dealt successfully with a wide variety of source
like the resulting taste, and it is widely known that water problems, including toxic cyanobacterial
the combination of high chlorine and high dissolved blooms and high arsenic https://www.safedrink-
solids produces trihalomethanes and other carcin- ingwaterteam.org/ibrom/. A small Saskatchewan
ogens. Although the increased incidence of cancers company, Sapphire Water, now produces its own
is very low, people generally avoid using the water. SIBROM plants commercially https://www.sap-
Another problem is a shortage of qualified wa- phire-water.ca/.
ter treatment plant operators. Federally sponsored IBROM plants have a number of features that
trainers are few in number, and the turnover in are appreciated by First Nations. They do not re-
plant operators is high, because wages are low for a quire addition of large amounts of costly chemi-
job with such high responsibility. cals. After treatment, water is trickled through a
Many indigenous communities are spread out mineral filter to restore calcium and magnesium,
over broad areas, with houses some times a kilo- making the water less corrosive, and a very small
meter or more apart. Installing and maintaining a amount of chlorine to prevent secondary contam-
distribution system is expensive, and in many cases ination. The plants occupy little space, and require
cisterns or barrels are used to store water instead, little maintenance. Plant operators and a few out-
inviting secondary contamination. side experts have formed the Safe Drinking Water
There have been a few small success stories that Team (see above website) to help solve water prob-
should serve as models for what could be done. The lems at First Nations and in other small communi-
Safe Drinking Water Foundation is a small non-prof- ties. The largest plant in operation is at Saddle Lake,
it organization that was formed to promote edu- Alberta, where it supplies drinking water to over
cation about drinking water and to help solve the 6000 people of the provinces second largest First
drinking water problems of prairie First Nations. As Nation. At least 21 IBROM plants are now in opera-
their first case, SDWF’s sole engineer, Hans Peter- tion. The IBROM process is described by Peterson
son was invited to Yellowquill First Nation, north- et al. (2007).
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | CANADA 141

Many of western Canada’s cities are located on to continue (Ebele et al. 2017). It can be expected to
rivers, where they were originally founded as trans- raise the cost of drinking water treatment for large
portation hubs, because most of the early travel cities considerably as chlorination plants are up-
used the rivers as highways. They both draw their graded or replaced.
water and discharge their sewage into the same riv-
ers. Modern personal care products, including phar-
maceuticals, birth control hormones, and cosmet- Organochlorines and other Semi-
ics are of concern, because they do not degrade as
rapidly as sewage, and some contain nanomaterials
Volatile Organic Compounds
which have not been thoroughly assessed. Although Among the most bizarre troublesome pollutants
concentrations are small, they are still of concern are a series of organic pollutants that persist in
as endocrine disruptors or for causing selection for the environment, biomagnify in food chains, and
drug resistant microbiological communities. volatilize at some environmental temperatures
Feedlots draining to the rivers also add pharmaceu- and condense at slightly lower temperatures. Such
ticals and endocrine disruptors. semi-volatile compounds include many PCBs, nu-
In one spectacular test, Kidd et al. (2007) added merous pesticides such as DDT, toxaphene, dieldrin
a small amount (5-6 ngL-1) of the synthetic estrogen and many others, Dioxins and furans are among
in birth control pills (17a-ethynyloestradiol; EE2) to such compounds that have caused problems in
a small lake at the ELA for three summers. There Canada, because until they were regulated in the
were rapid changes in the gonadal tissues of both late 1990s, they were discharged by pulp and paper
males and females of the fathead minnow Pime- mills which used chlorine-based bleaching process-
phales promelas leading to reproductive failure and es. They were biomagnified in food chains to con-
a collapse of the fish population. Other fish species centrations that required consumption advisories
were less sensitive, and insects, zooplankton and (Muir et al. 1992). After regulation, concentrations
algae were unaffected. Indeed, some invertebrate declined slowly, but most consumption advisories
populations increased, which was attributed to the are no longer needed.
decrease in predation pressure when fathead min- Many of the original persistent organic pollut-
nows declined. Effects on the fatheads persisted for ants (or POPs) were chlorinated compounds, but
two years after addition of the estrogen ceased, but more recently, many brominated and fluorinat-
the population has since recovered to pre-treat- ed compounds have shown similar properties. Al-
ment levels (Kidd et al. 2014). Evidence of endocrine though they were first regarded as a curiosity of
disruptors has been often reported downstream of long range atmospheric transport, it was soon dis-
sewage effluents (Falconer 2006). covered that they biomagnified to high levels in arc-
Agriculture and forestry are also known to re- tic food chains, as the result of long food chains of
lease chemicals that are endocrine disruptors, and long-lived organisms that seasonally stored large
feminized fish have been found in areas where ef- quantities of lipids, and most of the contaminants
fluents from feedlots and pulp mills discharge into are lipophilic (Muir et al. (1988). After the discov-
rivers. ery that many of the bioaccumulated toxins were
A wide variety of pharmaceuticals and personal reaching detrimental concentrations in indigenous
care products are found in Canadian drinking water, people of the north, a circumpolar effort was begun
especially where major rivers are water supplies to identify, track and reduce such compounds, the
for several cities. Antibiotics, endocrine disruptors, Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP
micro particles of plastic, cosmetic chemicals and a results were reviewed by Muir and DeWitt 2010).
variety of miscellaneous chemicals are flushed into Wania and Mackay (1995) were able to explain
waters with sewage, and conventional treatment how such compounds appeared in the arctic, even
does not remove them. As such chemicals and their though most were emitted thousands of kilometers
effects are recognized, reverse osmosis and a vari- to the south. Most have semi-volatile behaviour at
ety of advanced drinking water treatments are in- normal seasonal temperatures, by which chemicals
creasingly being deployed. This trend seems likely emitted from industries and soils at southerly lat-
142 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | CANADA

Summary
itudes would gradually make their way north, be-
cause they would condense under cooler tempera- Given the proliferation of water quality problems in
tures, moving much as dew on the grass. Canada, it is clear that the large investment made in
The same semi-volatile properties allow the research in the 1960s was an excellent investment.
chemicals to increase in concentration with eleva- Many water quality problems have been identified,
tion, where they accumulate in snowpacks and gla- and some reduced or eliminated. Remaining prob-
ciers (Blais et al. 1998; Donald et al. 1999). As cli- lems are largely the result of weak and inconsistent
mate warming causes glaciers to melt, some older water policies among federal and provincial agen-
pesticides that were sequestered in glaciers in de- cies. Despite the failures of past water policies as
cades past are again being mobilized to enter alpine described above, many industries are arguing for a
streams and lakes (Donald et al. 1999, Blais et al. “steamlining” of regulatory processes, which would
2001). Fortunately, use of many of the worst pesti- generally weaken water policies. Such weak wa-
cides was discontinued before concentrations in ice ter policies are being resisted by NGOs such as the
became high enough to pose a threat to organisms Council of Canadians https://canadians.org/water-
in alpine food chains, although alpine food chains policy. Given the impending threats to future water
investigated to date are also much shorter than arc- policy, it is essential that Canada rejuvenates and
tic ones, reducing the potential to biomagnify in top maintains a strong program of water research to
predators (Campbell et al. 2000; Demers et al. 2007). underpin sound water policies.

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WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | ENERGY 147

Energy and Water

Energy is one of the most important


inputs in drinking water supply and
sewerage. Water must be harvested,
pumped, transported, filtered, stored and
re-pumped. It is necessary to build dams
and reservoirs, and to lay and maintain
pipes. Since water purification, desalination
and pumping are operations that consume
a great deal of energy, if more countries
are forced to develop desalination, reverse
osmosis and decontamination plants to
increase the availability of drinking water,
or access water resources that are further
away and transport them over greater
distances, energy costs will continue to rise.
Accordingly, energy security is linked to the
problems, solutions and options related to
sustainable water management
148 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | ENERGY

Water Quality and Alternative Energy


Nexus in the Americas
Kwame Emmanuel and Anthony Clayton

Acknowledgments
This chapter summarizes the contributions of several academics and researchers in the re-
gion. In particular, we would like to acknowledge the work of Dr. Judith Franco, of the Uncon-
ventional Energy Research Institute at the Universidad Nacional de Salta, Argentina; Dr. Clau-
dio Wheelock, Director of the Solar Station; Dr. Julio Lopez de la Fuente, SJ of the Universidad
Centroamericana, and Erick Sandoval of the Interdisciplinary Institute of Natural Sciences at
the Universidad de Centroamérica, in Nicaragua; Roberto Castello Tió of Dominican Republic;
Dr. Melio Sáenz and Dr. Felipe Cisneros of the PROMAS Program for Water and Soil Manage-
ment at the Universidad de Cuenca, and Dr. Ricardo Izurieta of the National Academy of Sci-
ences of Quito, in Ecuador; Dr. José María Rincón-Martínez, Director of Research at Corpoema
and Research at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, and Diana Marcela Durán-Hernández
in Colombia; Dr. Juan Rodríguez of the Universidad Nacional de Perú; and Dr. Mireya R. Gold-
wasser, of the Catalysis Center at the Universidad Central de Venezuela. We would also like
to acknowledge the invaluable collaboration of Julián Despradel, Coordinator of the Energy
Program in the Dominican Republic, who compiled the information presented in this paper.

Introduction
Access to adequate supplies of clean water is critically important to all human aspirations
and goals, including sustainable development, and is now defined as a basic human right. The
proper treatment, recovery, reuse and disposal of wastewater are also critically important,
as failure in this regard has a number of damaging consequences; the discharge of untreated
waste can contaminate ground and surface water, which has serious implications for the po-
table water supply and ecosystem integrity. Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 states that
safe water and sanitation are essential to human health, environmental sustainability and
economic prosperity. There have been great achievements in this area, bringing clean water
to millions of people, but some of these achievements are now threatened by a combination
of population growth and climate change, which is putting water supplies in some regions at
unprecedented risk.

Kwame Emanuel kwamepe@hotmail.com Associate Lecturer, Centre for Environmental Management, The University of the West Indies,
Mona Campus, Jamaica. Anthony Clayton anthony.clayton@uwimona.edu.jm Institute for Sustainable Development, University of the
West Indies Mona Campus, Kingston, Jamaica. Claudio Estrada cestrada@ier.unam.mx Institute of Renewable Energies, National Univer-
sity of Mexico and Antonio E. Jimenez. With the special contribution of Julián Despradel (Dominican Republic), Judith Franco (Argentina),
José María Rincón-Martínez (Colombia), Diana Marcela Durán-Hernández (Colombia), Melio Sáenz (Ecuador), Felipe Cisneros (Ecua-
dor), Claudio Wheelock (Nicaragua), Julio López de la Fuente (Nicaragua), Erick Sandoval (Nicaragua), Juan Rodríguez (Peru), Roberto
Castello Tió (Dominican Republic) and Mireya R. Goldwasser (Venezuela).
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | ENERGY 149

So significant further progress in this area is opment of a collaborative approach in the Ameri-
now essential. If the development of more efficient cas to address energy and water problems in con-
systems for water supply and utilization does not junction. As policy decisions for energy and water
keep pace with population growth, then water sup- have a number of mutual cross-over implications, a
plies per capita are likely to fall. Similarly, if wa- conjoint approach to find solutions to both energy
ter supply systems do not adjust to the changing and water supply problems simultaneously is more
weather patterns associated with climate change, likely to result in indefinitely viable arrangements
then many parts of the world are likely to be in- that will operate under a wider set of circumstanc-
creasingly water-stressed in future. Without signif- es. This is therefore a multi-dimensional optimiza-
icant progress in these areas, therefore, progress tion problem, where it is necessary to develop solu-
towards the other SDGs will become increasingly tions that work in different dimensions at the same
difficult, if not impossible. time. This also allows proposed solutions to be
Energy is one of the most critical inputs in the stress-tested under more realistic scenarios, such
provision of potable water and sanitation. Water as, for example, what will happen to the water sup-
must be harvested, pumped, transported, filtered, ply if the power grid fails?
stored and pumped again. Dams and reservoirs IANAS is therefore mapping out the transition
must be built, pipes laid and maintained. Water pu- pathways from the current status quo to a more
rification, desalination and pumping are very ener- sustainable future for the water and energy nexus.
gy-intensive operations, so if more countries have The remainder of this chapter summarizes the
to develop desalinization, reverse osmosis and de- submissions of regional experts from across the
contamination plants to increase the availability of Americas on a number of aspects of this nexus, in-
potable water, or to access water resources from cluding the use of alternative energy to treat saline,
further away and transport them over greater dis- brackish and contaminated freshwater, and waste-
tances, the energy cost will continue to rise. So en- water management in the Americas.
ergy security and the goals of SDG 7 - access to af- The goal was to determine the depth and range
fordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy of expertise in the Americas on the energy and wa-
for all – are linked to the problems, solutions and ter nexus. This involved looking at a number of ex-
choices involved in sustainable water management. amples of emerging good practice, including the use
If a country makes a policy decision to deliver piped of low-carbon alternative energy sources in manag-
water to all consumers, the energy cost will be sig- ing and treating water. The focus was on tracking
nificantly higher (because of the need to pump wa- the development of technologies from research to
ter to consumers who may be uphill from the reser- commercial development, with particular regard to
voirs) than if the country makes a policy decision to practical or close-to-market solutions.
develop rainwater harvesting and local springs. An
energy-intensive water system is also less resilient
than a system that emphasizes local resources; if the Water Quality
energy system fails, the water system will fail too.
The energy sector also faces a number of crit- Water for primary use has to meet stringent micro-
ical challenges, including dependency on unstable biological and chemical quality standards in order
oil-exporting regimes, fluctuating oil prices, high to prevent waterborne diseases and health risks
environmental costs and profoundly serious impli- from e.g. toxic chemicals. The final water product
cations for climate change. An energy-intensive wa- must be chemically and microbiologically safe for
ter supply system therefore connects two diverse human consumption, and fit for other purposes,
sets of challenges, which significantly increases the such as industrial use. For domestic consumption,
probability of disruption. water should also be free from unpleasant tastes
The Inter-American Network of Academies of and odours and, in some cases, improved for human
Sciences (IANAS) is therefore exploring the devel- health purposes, including fluoridisation or other
150 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | ENERGY

mineralization. With regard to wastewater, the pur- gion to meet the SDG 6 targets, which include uni-
pose of treatment is to transform the primary waste versal access to safe water and improved water
product into a form that is clean enough to either quality by reducing pollution.
be disposed of in the natural environment without So there are a number of factors that charac-
harmful effects, or to be used for secondary pur- terize the water quality dilemma in the region. The
poses such as irrigation or groundwater replenish- case of the small Caribbean small island of Grenada,
ment. The goal of wastewater treatment is to elim- as summarized by Mitchell et al (2018), illustrates
inate pathogens and remove organic and inorganic some of the challenges. The factors there include:
constituents and, in some cases, to reduce aesthetic • A lack of financing for the maintenance and ex-
pollution such as agents that would discolour the pansion of treatment facilities;
water. This is achieved by putting the water through • The absence of zoning regulations, which nega-
various physical, chemical and biological processes. tively impact watershed management and wa-
ter quality;
• Infrequent monitoring and analysis of water
The Americas quality, due to the lack of legal, technical and
financial resources;
The Americas comprise two continents and a • No secondary or tertiary treatment of wastewa-
very diverse group of countries. It is the most wa- ter, as well as defective disposal infrastructure;
ter-abundant region in the world, with South Amer- • Limited community involvement in water qual-
ica alone having nearly 31% of the world’s total ity management; and
freshwater resources. The region, however, is sig- • An inadequate institutional framework that is
nificantly challenged by threats to water quality, incapable of Integrated Water Resource Man-
impacting negatively on the volume of potable wa- agement (IWRM).
ter which can actually be provided to its population.
The issues include saline intrusion of coastal aqui- Many of these and similar problems can be seen
fers caused by over-extraction as in the case of Ja- in other countries across the region.
maica and Barbados, which will be exacerbated by Other factors influencing water quality in the
sea level rise; poor land use practices and water- Americas include:
shed degradation resulting in siltation of raw wa- • A combination of population and economic
ter sources; arsenic contamination of groundwater growth driving up water and energy demand
in countries such as Argentina, Ecuador and Mexi- and increasing waste generation and pollu-
co; high levels of the Escherichia coli bacterium, for tion, which create problems for water quality
example in Nicaragua; and high colloidal iron con- management;
tent and contamination by agricultural and indus- • Rapid and poorly planned urbanization, with
trial sectors in Ecuador. In the case of the Domin- many informal settlements, which negatively
ican Republic, one of the most serious problems is affects watershed management;
the contamination of aquifers and water sources by • A very large disparity in water and sanitation
agricultural discharge, for example, from livestock coverage between rich and poor, as in countries
rearing (e.g., pigs and cows) and slaughterhouses. like Argentina;
There are also issues with micro-plastics in waste- • Weak or non-existent enforcement of water
water and water sources in Panama, and glypho- quality standards, and a complete lack of re-
sate pollution in Colombia. In Mexico, widespread quired standards for a number of contami-
distrust of piped water quality has resulted in the nants; and
country being the highest per capita consumer of • A common pattern of investing in water supply
bottled water globally, which means that millions infrastructure but neglecting to invest in waste-
of plastic bottles are discarded in Mexico each year water management.
(Flores-Díaz et al 2018). These issues, all of which • Geological conditions also pose significant
stem from management failings or technical gaps, challenges for water management in some
will make it difficult for many countries in the re- countries. For example, water managers in
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | ENERGY 151

Mexico have to contend with arsenic and fluo- ly integrated renewables into their energy portfolio.
ride contamination as a result of naturally-oc- Venezuela is an interesting case, as the country has
curring geochemical processes, while arsenic is some of the largest oil reserves in the world, but re-
a waste product of mining activities in Ecuador. lies more on hydropower, with the Caroni River and
its tributary, Paragua River, providing 72% of the
This complex array of challenges highlights the electricity for the country (Rivas et al., 2018). Ven-
need for a comprehensive and integrated approach ezuela is currently experiencing serious disruption
to water quality management, including better in its energy sector, but that is a problem of gover-
management and enforcement, and the develop- nance, not the availability of resources.
ment of cleaner technological solutions.

Energy and Water Treatment


Alternative Energy
Case studies from nine countries in the region that
There is a bi-directional relationship between wa- are now using renewable energy for water treat-
ter and energy issues. Water is used in almost all ment are presented here; one in North America five
forms of energy production, while energy is a fun- in South America, one in Central America and three
damental component of potable water supply and in the Caribbean. The countries are Argentina, Co-
wastewater treatment. The supply of clean water is lumbia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Peru, Venezuela, St Lu-
extremely energy intensive from well abstraction to cia, Barbados, Jamaica and a special collaboration
treatment (including desalination) to pumping and from Mexico.
conveyance to the consumer. In many of the Carib-
bean nations, the water utilities are by far the larg- Argentina
est single customer of the power companies. This Franco (n.d.) describes the use of solar stills to pro-
relies almost entirely on a conventional oil-based duce freshwater without electrical or mechanical
energy supply system, however, which then con- energy. The technology, which simulates a green-
tributes to climate change with potentially disas- house, comprises two primary components: a tank
trous consequences for the island nations. or collector and the cover. The tank is where the im-
In response, the use of alternative non-fossil en- pure water to be treated is kept. Fixed above it, at
ergy (including renewable and nuclear) has become an angle, is a transparent cover, which can be made
a vital mitigating strategy as it reduces the emission of either plastic or glass. The cover has two func-
of greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere while pro- tions: temperature magnification and condensate
viding the energy necessary to support economic collection. The treatment process is triggered by
and population growth, as well as improved welfare solar radiation passing through the cover resulting
and social development. in the evaporation of water. Condensation then oc-
The main objective of SDG 7 is to ensure access curs beneath the cover and droplets of freshwater
to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern en- are transported via gutters to a storage facility.
ergy for all. The 2030 targets therefore include sub- The Institute of Research on Unconventional
stantially increasing the share of renewable energy Energy (INENCO) at the National University of Sal-
in the energy supply mix, and enhancing interna- ta has developed modular and transportable solar
tional cooperation to support research and invest- stills, which can be assembled in a few hours. These
ment in cleaner energy. Globally, the development solar stills have been installed in a number of com-
of renewable energy has surpassed projections in munities in the province of Salta to treat water con-
recent years, and the use of the technology is like- taminated with arsenic, produce distilled water and
ly to show above-trend growth for decades to come for desalination. Franco (n.d.) concludes that the
(IANAS-IAP 2016), eventually displacing high-carbon technology is suitable for sparsely populated and
sources. In the region, countries such as Chile, Mex- isolated areas with limited access to energy and po-
ico, Argentina, Cuba and Venezuela have successful- table freshwater sources.
152 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | ENERGY

Colombia
Rincón-Martínez and Durán-Hernández (n.d.) re- eliminate pathogens. The method is not 100% effi-
ported that wind-powered desalination has been cient in eliminating pathogens, especially in high-
installed on the arid Guajira Peninsula where cli- ly turbid water, but studies have shown its efficacy
mate change is now compounding the water scar- in reducing the prevalence of illnesses such as di-
city crisis. The aero-desalinator, invented by engi- arrhea. During the project, a microbiological analy-
neer Juan Carlos Borrero, is a device that connects sis was conducted before and after exposure to sun-
a wind-turbine to well abstraction infrastructure. light and the results confirmed the effectiveness of
The technology extracts saline water from wells the SODIS method in water treatment. SODIS is also
and transports it to a series of filters and mem- considered a viable disaster management option
branes with copper and silver ions for the remov- for disinfection and has an advantage over chlori-
al of pathogens. A reverse osmosis process is used nation and boiling, as chlorination alters taste and
to produce potable water. Advantages of the sys- boiling requires energy. SODIS is therefore consid-
tem include reduced operating cost, as the price ered a sustainable, inexpensive treatment method
per gallon is 20 to 30 percent lower than diesel or which does not require electric power.
solar alternatives, and no external power source A workshop conducted by the Swiss Federal In-
and chemical treatment required. Currently there stitute for Environmental Science and Technology
are five aero-desalinators operating in the Guaji- in 2001 in Quito, also demonstrated the effective-
ra region and there is a Government contract with ness of the SODIS method to disinfect piped water
Juan Carlos Borrero to establish forty more. Rincón- from the Amaguana community and non-piped wa-
Martínez and Durán-Hernández (n.d.) also cited the ter from the San Pedro river (Sáenz et al n.d.). After
work of engineering students at the National Uni- plastic bottles filled with the two samples of water
versity of Colombia who developed a solar desali- had been exposed to sunlight, the water was ana-
nation prototype made of recyclable materials.1 The lyzed to determine the presence of fecal coliforms.
prototype generates half a litre of water an hour us- The first set of four bottles with piped water that
ing seven kilowatts of energy harvested from solar were exposed to sunlight reported 51 FCU/100 ml
exposure in La Guajira. The objective of this exer- before exposure and 0 FCU/100 ml after. The second
cise was to solve the problem of water scarcity in set of bottles containing non-piped water reported
this region. The apparatus has two primary compo- 284 FCU before exposure to sunlight and 0 FCU af-
nents: the focus (or energy concentrator) and the ter exposure, with the exception of one bottle that
parabola and the process is based on the principles reported 1 FCU.
of refractive optics and concave reflection to heat
the saline water. After evaporation and separation Nicaragua
of the salt and other undesirable constituents, the Sandoval (n.d.) reported on the use of a photovolta-
vapor is cooled in the condenser and droplets of ic system to purify brackish water for the cleaning
freshwater collected. The indigenous community in of bivalve molluscs intended for human consump-
La Guajira can now replicate the model using easily tion. In this case, the water purification apparatus
accessible materials and become directly responsi- converts solar energy to electrical energy to power
ble for managing their water supply. a UV lamp, which eliminates bacteria in brackish
water.
Ecuador The Institute for Training, Research and Envi-
Sáenz et al (n.d.) explored the use of Solar Water ronmental Development (CIDEA/UCA) purchased
Disinfection (SODIS) as part of a community-based the equipment because of water quality concerns
research project in the village of La Concordia. SO- and the high cost associated with connecting to the
DIS is a low cost process for treating drinking wa- power grid. The apparatus was installed in the com-
ter using ultraviolet rays and heat from the sun to munity of Aserradores on the Pacific coast where
the main livelihood is fishing and mangrove cock-
1. http://agenciadenoticias.unal.edu.co/detalle/article/desali- le collection. Approximately three million units of
nizador-solar-purifica-agua-en-la-guajira.html mangrove cockle are harvested each year from es-
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | ENERGY 153

tuaries making it the most consumed mollusc in the infects water more efficiently than solar irradi-
country. Unfortunately, the safety of the delicacy ation alone.
has been compromised by the water quality where 3. Solar electrification systems: These systems
the cockles are located. A 2007 study by CIDEA re- provide energy via solar panels for decontami-
vealed estuaries in western Nicaragua contained nation processes that require a limited amount
Escherichia.coli bacteria above permissible levels. of electrical energy.
Shellfish purification systems have been widely
developed in other countries but limited research Venezuela
has been done on the decontamination of the man- The Academy of Physical, Mathematical and Natu-
grove cockle, Anadara spp (Anadara tuberculosa ral Sciences and the National Academy of Engineer-
and Anadara similis). The process adopted involves ing and Habitat (n.d.) summarized the Venezuelan
three stages: experience of using renewable energy to provide
1. Filtration of the brackish water to remove the potable water in primarily remote, rural areas. Al-
suspended solids which can interfere with the though having some of the world’s largest oil re-
UV light treatment in stage two; serves, Venezuela’s energy mix comprises approx-
2. Exposure of the water to UV light to eliminate imately 70% hydroelectric energy with the main
the bacteria; and installations such as the Guri, Caruachi and Ma-
3. Submersion of the cockles in treated water for cagua plants located in Bolivar state in the southern
48 hours for cleaning. part of the country. Notwithstanding the extensive
use of clean energy, there have been very few publi-
The system used by CIDEA has proven to be ef- cations on its use for water purification.
fective and could now be adopted more extensive- In 2005, the Government initiated the ‘Sowing
ly to ensure the safety of mangrove cockle industry. Light’ program, which involved the use of photovol-
taic installations and other alternative energy solu-
Peru tions such as wind energy in isolated rural com-
Rodriguez (n.d.) noted that there has been research munities. The program included the installation of
programs at the National Engineering Universi- water purification and desalination systems as well
ty, the University of Lima and the National Univer- as pumping facilities for crop irrigation using sur-
sity of Tumbes on the use of renewable energy to face and underground sources.
improve water quality. Several patents have been Another program implemented by the Govern-
awarded. The main object of the research was to de- ment, entitled ‘Planting Electricity’, involved mi-
velop water purification systems that are efficient, cro-electrification, pumping and treatment to sup-
robust and easy to use and maintain. There was a ply drinking water to indigenous communities in
particular focus on the need to supply clean water isolated, border areas. The Government also in-
to isolated, rural populations with limited access to stalled solar powered infrastructure for water
energy, chemical inputs and technical personnel. treatment on the river island, Fajardo, and is look-
ing into incorporating wind technology.
Technologies were categorized as follows: Venezuelan universities have also investigated
1. Optical systems to increase the efficiency of so- renewable energy options for water treatment in
lar energy: These include desalination systems, rural areas. For example, the Simón Bolívar Univer-
which involve evaporation and steam conden- sity (USB) developed a desalination plant prototype
sation to minimize salt content, as well as so- using multiple-effect humidification and also con-
lar disinfection systems to treat water in rural ducted research on low temperature thermal solar
areas. energy systems.
2. Non-optical systems: These include activated Another energy source for potable water supply
carbon and titanium oxide systems for disin- identified in the Venezuelan case is position energy,
fection in disaster areas where access to safe which is commonly used in the design of aqueducts.
water is limited. In the case of titanium oxide, This is considered a renewable energy form, which
when placed in the sun for a few hours, it dis- is rarely recognized. This utilization of gravity has
154 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | ENERGY

resulted in less fossil fuel consumption and carbon which has installed solar capacity at its reverse os-
dioxide emissions and significant savings in oper- mosis facility but has entered into a ‘buy-all, sell-
ating costs. all’ arrangement (indirect electrification) with the
country’s electricity utility, Barbados Light and
Caribbean Power.
The use of alternative energy to improve water In addition, there are plans to incorporate so-
quality is a relatively new concept in the Caribbean lar electrification at the Mona water treatment and
according to Andre Quesnel, Technical Director of distribution facility in Kingston, Jamaica. The Na-
Ecohesion, a sustainable water infrastructure com- tional Water Commission is looking into erecting
pany based in Barbados. There are therefore many panels over the Mona reservoir in order to generate
opportunities for business as well as research and enough energy to power the facility as well as sell to
development in the Caribbean. the grid. The inclusion of renewables is now recog-
A St. Lucian fisherman and self-taught inventor, nized by the Jamaican Government as an important
Karlis Noel, designed and manufactured a mobile, step in establishing a sustainable business model
solar-powered, desalination unit that neutralizes for water management.
the brine waste product, the first of its kind globally.
The self-sufficient system now benefits the Laborie Energy and Wastewater Treatment
village where the inventor is from, and the technol- Wastewater pollution is a serious threat to sustain-
ogy has also been exported to the small Pacific is- able water management. Generally, only a small
land of the Republic of Nauru, which is now very percentage of the volume of wastewater generat-
badly affected by saline intrusion into its ground- ed is collected, and an even smaller percentage is
water supply. treated. In the Dominican Republic, for example,
Another example of alternative energy for wa- only 38% of the wastewater collected is treated
ter purification is the solar water distillation sys- (Tio 2017). This situation underscores the finding
tem developed by the Florida-based company Sun that institutions responsible for water and sanita-
Fresh Water in collaboration with The Centre for tion tend to invest more resources in water supply
Advanced Engineering Design and Development than in wastewater treatment.
at the City University of New York. The company Wastewater treatment facilities that can now be
recently secured two patents for its novel optimal considered as exemplars of the new energy-water
concentration distillation prototype, which will nexus include bio-digesters and other forms of bi-
be marketed primarily in the Caribbean. The scal- ological systems. These systems either produce re-
able unit is a portable, low-maintainance and inex- newable energy or use sunlight for the processing
pensive solution for potable water production and of wastewater and do not require electrification,
is particularly suitable for remote areas. The heat which means they are particularly energy efficient.
transfer system was piloted in Florida and it was Bio-digesters are now being used in the Dominican
found to be more energy efficient than Reverse Os- Republic and Ecuador in waste management and
mosis. Planned improvements include the incor- energy production. They utilize micro-organisms to
poration of nanotechnology, which is projected to digest and break down organic waste in an anaer-
enhance freshwater production to greater than 14 obic environment. The end products are biogas, a
litres per square metre per day . The next step for form of renewable energy, and a nutrient rich deriv-
Sun Fresh Water will be to secure funding to op- ative, which can be used as fertilizer.
timize, manufacture and distribute a commercial McFarren (n.d.) summarized the Dominican Re-
unit. The company also intends to establish a water public experience, which involves the treatment of
farm comprising thousands of units in a Caribbean pig slurry and cattle dung. McFarren noted that in
community as part of a case study to be conducted Monción, in the Sánchez Ramírez Province, there is
by the Global Water Partnership on the efficacy of a small digester that was installed to produce meth-
technology. ane gas from 40 head of cattle. After five years in
There is also the case of Freshwater Ionics in operation, it now provides enough energy to pre-
Barbados, a desalination plant owner and operator, pare 66 meals per day at the Las Carmelitas Con-
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | ENERGY 155

Box 1. Treatment Using the Photo-Fenton Process for Industrial Effluent in Morelos, Mexico

Antonio E Jiménez and Claudio A. Estrada*

In the state of Morelos, Mexico, water resources face serious pollution problems due to effluents, first from the
industrial, agricultural, rural and municipal sectors and, second, due to the lack of drainage in much of the state.
The latter forces much of the municipal and rural sector to discharge its wastewater directly into the ravines and
rivers in the region. Consequently, nowadays over 70% of the surface waters of Morelos contain some degree of
contamination.
In Mexico, treatment plants process approximately 45% of the municipal wastewater produced. Likewise, the
level of water treatment from the industry is 35%, which provides a great opportunity to recover a large percent-
age of water. These statistics show how far the country lags behind in wastewater treatment systems and legis-
lation, since most of these waters converge, without any treatment, directly into rivers and ravines. These figures
represent a great opportunity for the development, innovation and use of more efficient systems for the treat-
ment of their wastewater installed in an appropriate place in each industry, capable of degrading recalcitrant
pollutants before the effluent is channeled and discharged into receiving bodies of water, mainly rivers, which is
how this is usually done.
Given that industry is the sector that most pollutes water, Mexican regulations on wastewater discharges
stipulate that a Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) of more than 200 mg/L is classified as heavily polluted water.
The state of Morelos has industries whose wastewater has extremely high levels of contamination, with a COD
level of over 2,000 mg/L.
In the IER-UNAM (www.ier.unam.mx/), advanced oxidation processes for the treatment of wastewater using
concentrated solar energy have been studied. Early studies made it possible to reduce sodium dodecylbenzene
sulfonate in aqueous solution using a parabolic solar concentrator with titanium dioxide as a catalyst. Up to 94%
of the contaminant was removed [1]. For several years, various studies of photocatalytic degradation with solar
concentration were undertaken [2, 3, 4].
An alternative methodology for wastewater treatment has recently been developed through the photo-FEN-
TON process, using photocatalytic reactors integrated with Parabolic Compound Cylinder solar concentrators
(CPC) and geometric concentration ratios of 1 sol. This has made it possible to degrade effluents from the textile
and pharmaceutical industry to levels of pollutant removal of over 80% in terms of COD and Total Organic Carbon
COT, which is an extremely encouraging result. Work is being done to optimize experimental parameters that in-
crease the level of degradation processes. A scaling study is proposed to be presented to the industries involved,
so that a photocatalytic degradation plant can be installed on the premises of each company before they dis-
charge their effluent into water-receiving bodies.

1. Jiménez A.E., Estrada C.A., Cota A.D. & Román A. Photocatalytic Degradation of DBSNa Using Solar Energy. Solar
Energy Materials & Solar Cells 60 (2000) 85-95
2. Bandala Erick R. & Estrada Claudio. Comparison of Solar Collection Geometries for Application to Photocata-
lytic Degradation of Organic Contaminants. Journal of Solar Energy Engineering, February 2007, Vol. 129, 22-26
3. Velázquez Martínez S., Pineda-Arellano C.A., Salgado-Tránsito I., Silva-Martínez S., Jiménez González A.E. Modi-
fied sol-gel/hydrothermal method for the synthesis of microsized TiO2 and iron-doped TiO2, its characteriza-
tion and solar photocatalytic activity for an azo dye degradation. Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology
A: Chemistry 359 (2018), 93-101. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jphotochem.2018.04.002.
4. Pineda Arellano C.A., Jiménez González A., Silva Martínez S., Salgado-Tránsito I., Pérez Franco C. (2013). Enhanced
mineralization of atrazine by means of photodegradation processes using solar energy at pilot plant scale.
Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology A: Chemistry, Volume 272, 21-27.

*Institute of Renewable Energies (IER), Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Temixco, Morelos 62580, Mexico.
156 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | ENERGY

Table 1. A summary of water technology using renewable energy in the Americas


Country Technology Stage Proponent
Argentina Solar stills Commercial University
Aero-desalinator (wind-powered) Commercial Engineer
Colombia
Solar desalination (small scale) Research University
University / Research
Ecuador Solar water disinfection Research
Institute
Photovoltaic system to purify brackish water
Nicaragua Commercial University
(shellfish purification system)
Optical systems: desalination, solar disinfection
Non-optical systems: Activated carbon and Titanium
Peru Commercial (Patents) University
oxide systems
Solar electrification systems: solar panels
Photovoltaic and wind energy installations for water
Commercial Government
purification systems
Venezuela Desalination (multiple-effect humidification) Research University
Low temperature thermal solar energy systems Research University
Aqueducts using position energy Commercial Water Authority
Inventor (St. Lucía)
Solar-powered Desalination (St. Lucia and Barbados) Commercial
Private Sector (Barbados)
Caribbean
Transitioning from Re- Private Sector and Univer-
Solar Water Distillation
search to Commercial sity Collaboration

vent. The biodigester also fuels a small cheese and by gravity (so no conventional energy is required)
sweet production facility and has the potential to and the plants harness energy from the sun, making
run a 4,000Kw power plant. it a natural, low-maintenance and energy efficient
Ecuador had 38 bio-digesters in operation in facility. The Dominican Republic also employs oth-
2013, treating wastewater from livestock and gen- er energy efficient, natural systems as summarized
erating energy, as outlined by Sáenz et al (n.d.). A by Tio (2017). These include anaerobic lagoons and
study conducted during the processing of pig waste facultative ponds. Tio (2017) notes that further re-
on a commercial farm in Rumiñahui Canton, Pichin- search is required to achieve better use of natural
cha province, revealed that a biodigester with a liq- conditions in wastewater treatment.
uid volume of 9 cubic metres generated approx-
imately 3 cubic metres of biogas per day, with a
methane content of 52%. Findings and Conclusions
Other forms of wastewater management sys-
tems in the region include horizontal dry wetlands, Unlike fossil fuels, renewable energy sources such
which use biological processes to purify wastewa- as the sun and wind are effectively inexhaustible,
ter as part of primary treatment. This system has and therefore can be utilized as the basis for an in-
been implemented in the Dominican Republic in the definite energy strategy. Renewable energy also has
Domingo Maíz Community and replicated in Jaraba- the very important benefit of producing negligible
coa and in Vallejuelo, San Juan Province (described greenhouse gas emissions in operation, and there-
by McFarren (n.d.). Aquatic plants are used to pro- by mitigating the impact of climate change, which
vide oxygen to the system through the roots and now appears to be an existential threat to much of
also absorb non-organic materials such as heavy human civilization and the natural environment.
metals and agro-chemicals. The technology works An approach that integrates alternative energy
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | ENERGY 157

with water treatment technologies strengthens the and research in their countries, and across the re-
adaptive capacity of the region by providing po- gion. Some universities (in Peru, for example, have
table water where resources are contaminated or secured patents for their designs and have part-
now limited due to climate-related impacts such as nered with the private sector to develop and roll-
drought and saline intrusion. out solutions for the energy-water sector. In Vene-
Electric power from solar, wind or hydro-tech- zuela, government policy has been the main driver
nology are now relatively mature technologies, but of the adoption of renewable energy in the water
there are other options that do not require electric- sector. In the Caribbean, individual ingenuity and
ity to operate; including photo-catalytic reactors private sector innovation are the main drivers, and
(e.g., activated carbon and titanium oxide systems) the region is now in the early stage of the develop-
and optical systems. Position energy, associated ment of a sophisticated, commercially-driven busi-
with gravity-based systems such as aqueducts, is ness model.
also a form of renewable energy, but its potential
has not been explored. Biogas, which can be gener-
ated from wastewater treatment using with bio-di- Recommendations
gesters, can make an important contribution, par-
ticularly in agricultural areas. The management of water requires a combination
The cases reviewed in this book have high- of preventative and end-of-pipe solutions, inte-
lighted the increasing cost-effectiveness of these grated in a comprehensive policy approach aimed
cleaner solutions, sometimes because no exter- at meeting water quality targets. The main recom-
nal power is required, and sometimes because no mendations for water management include:
chemical inputs are needed. There are particularly • Developing regulations for non-point sources
important applications of alternative energy in con- of pollution (such as agro-chemicals);
junction with water treatment facilities in remote, • Establishing an independent water quality
sparsely populated areas where there is limited ac- monitoring and research program, a compre-
cess to clean water or a reliable electricity supply. hensive set of robust standards and the insti-
The technology is also very useful in disaster ar- tutional capacity required to deliver improve-
eas, where centralized power and water distribu- ments and enforce standards;
tion grids have been damaged and cannot provide • Implementation of zoning policies and inte-
electricity and clean water to people in the affected grated watershed management;
areas. The Nicaraguan case also demonstrated the • Incorporating eco-centric and precautionary
applicability of the energy-water nexus in ensuring principles in water quality management, espe-
food safety in the fisheries sector. In Colombia, the cially as it relates to the use of toxic substances.
social benefits were clear, with indigenous commu-
nities in remote areas being able to replicate the so- With regard to the energy – water nexus, the
lar desalination model using recyclable and easily main recommendations include:
accessible materials and therefore taking direct re- • Research and development collaboration at the
sponsibility for their water supply. regional level: This can be facilitated by IANAS
This situational analysis of work across the in partnership with the Global Water Partner-
Americas has shown that the majority of inter- ship (GWP), Caribbean Water and Wastewater
ventions to integrate alternative energy into wa- Association (CWWA) and other water and en-
ter quality solutions mainly focus on water treat- ergy institutions in the region.
ment, with limited applications in the wastewater • Financing for nexus initiatives: Financing has
management field. This finding is in line with the to be made available in order to develop and
overall finding that there is a greater propensity to manufacture the technology needed to solve
invest in water supply systems than in wastewater the problems in the region. In the case of the
management. successful St. Lucian inventor, the Global Envi-
A number of universities and research institu- ronmental Fund (GEF) provided small grant as-
tions have championed technology development sistance to conduct the feasibility study as well
158 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | ENERGY

as to develop the technology, and it has now sustainable approaches to ensuring water se-
reached the point where it has been export- curity. This could include financial incentives
ed to solve water problems in another small for clean technology and polluter-pays disin-
island developing nation. This financial sup- centives for old, inefficient technologies still
port, which could take the form of a dedicat- used in energy supply and water treatment.
ed window in the development banks offering • Wastewater management: Water supply re-
low-interest credit, or shareholdings, should be quires investment, but measures to improve ef-
extended to both researchers and the private ficiency and reduce leaks and theft are equal-
sector, particularly where the financing is re- ly important, and commensurate investment
quired to bring a prototype to market. must be focused on wastewater treatment. This
• Government incentives for integrating water comprehensive approach will deliver both the
and energy technologies: The policy environ- water and the energy efficiency gains required
ment needs to be developed to encourage more to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

References
Academia de Ciencias Físicas, Matemáticas y Natu- Rincón-Martínez, José M. y Diana M. Durán-Hernán-
rales de Venezuela y Academia Nacional de la dez (s/f). Energía renovable y desarrollo de la
Ingeniería y el Hábitat (s/f). Aldeas inteligentes, calidad del agua en Colombia. (Documento in-
energías sostenibles y uso del agua. (Documento édito). Colombia.
inédito). Venezuela. Rodriguez, Juan (s/f). Experiencias y prácticas efec-
Flores-Díaz, Adriana C. et al. (2018). Calidad del tivas en el uso de energías alternativas para me-
agua en México. (Documento inédito). México: jorar la calidad del agua: el caso de Perú. (Doc-
Academia Mexicana de Ciencias. umento inédito). Lima, Perú: Center for the
Franco, J. (s/f). Una experiencia de desalinización Development of Advanced Materials and Nano-
del agua mediante energía solar en el norte de technology, Universidad Nacional de Ingeniería,
Argentina. (Documento inédito). Argentina: Uni- Av. Tupac Amaru 210, Rimac, Lima, Perú.
versidad Nacional de Salta. Sáenz, Melio, Felipe Cisneros y Ricardo Izurieta
González Rivas, E.J. et al. (2018). Calidad del agua en (s/f). Calidad del agua y energía en las Américas:
Venezuela. (Documento inédito). Venezuela un caso de estudio de Ecuador. (Documento in-
IANAS-IAP (2016). Guía hacia un futuro energético édito). Cuenca, Ecuador: Universidad de Cuenca
sustentable para las Américas. Mexico: IANAS. Sandoval, Erick (s/f). Uso de un sistema fotovoltaico
https://www.ianas.org/docs/books/eb01.pdf para purificar el agua salobre utilizada para lim-
McFarren, Tim (s/f). Experiencias de tecnologías piar los moluscos bivalvos destinados al consumo
utilizadas en la República Dominicana para mit- humano en el municipio de Aserradores-Chinan-
igar los efectos del agua contaminada mediante dega, Nicaragua. (Documento inédito). Mana-
la tecnología apropiada. (Documento inédito). gua, Nicaragua: Universidad Centroamericana.
República Dominicana. Tió, Roberto C. (2017). Estatus de plantas de trata-
Mitchell, Kerry, Martin S. Forde, y Allan Neptune miento de aguas residuales (PTAR) en la Repúbli-
(2018). Water Quality in the Americas – Grenada. ca Dominicana. (Documento inédito). República
(Documento inédito). St. George’s, Grenada: St. Dominicana.
George’s University
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | CHILE 159

Chile

Chile is a land of contrasts as regards


water resources, with average annual
per capita runoff of 500 m3 from the
metropolitan area to the north, where
shortages prevail, and over 7,000 m3 in
the south. Chile has achieved high levels of
sanitation and access to potable water for
the region and has also made considerable
progress in the knowledge and protection
of water quality. However, the pressures
of urban, mining, agricultural and industrial
development, coupled with various
hydrological and geochemical conditions,
pose significant challenges for water quality
as regards compliance with the 2030
Agenda for sustainable development, in
dimensions that go beyond sanitation and
access to drinking water.

Cochrane Lake in the Patagonia region, Chile © iStock


160 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | CHILE

Water Quality in Chile:


Progress, Challenges and Perspectives
Pablo Pastén, Alejandra Vega, Paula Guerra, Jaime Pizarro and Katherine Lizama

Abstract
Although a great deal of progress has been made in the knowledge and protection of water
quality in Chile, various hydrological and geochemical conditions, coupled with urban, agri-
cultural, industrial and mining pressures, make Chile an interesting case, creating multiple
challenges for complying with the 2030 Agenda in dimensions beyond sewerage and access
to drinking water.

1. Introduction
Between 1990 and 2015, Chile showed a positive evolution in the indicators of access to drink-
ing water and sanitation associated with the United Nations Millennium Development Goals
(MDG) (2001). This positive evolution in drinking water treatment provided benefits for both
health and the environment, and socioeconomic development. The country now has the
commitment to advance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) agreed in the 2030 Agen-
da (ONU, 2015). SDG 6 proposes goals and indicators directly related to water quality. Howev-
er, whether directly or indirectly, water quality plays a key role in other goals and indicators
associated with the SDGs, beyond access to drinking water, sanitation and hygiene. Water
quality is therefore also linked to water resource management, the resilience of communities
and cities, agricultural, mining and industrial development, the viability of ecosystems, and
equity and environmental justice (e.g. Evans & Kantrowitz, 2002; VanDerslice, 2011).
This chapter seeks to describe the main spatial and temporal trends in water quality in
Chile, highlight some of the advances in the knowledge of the processes that control water
quality and identify challenges for the future. Special emphasis is placed on thematic and
problematic characteristics of the country such as the mineral enrichments that have given
rise to extensive mining activity in the past and present.
This chapter begins by presenting the objectives and goals related to water quality, in
both the MDGs and the SDGs, and their evolution and baseline for Chile. It then describes
the water quality monitoring and information networks existing in Chile. It subsequently
describes water quality in Chile, identifying the spatial and temporal macrotrends of key
water quality parameters for surface and groundwater. Afterwards, it explain distinctive as-
pects of water quality for selected regions and watersheds, highlighting key issues for Chile
and emphasizing the main scientific advances regarding the occurrence, distribution, dy-
namics and control of pollutants. Aspects of governance and regulations framing the control

Pablo Pastén ppasten@ing.puc.cl Chapter coordinator. Centro de Desarrollo Urbano Sustentable (CEDEUS) and Pontificia Universidad
Católica de Chile, Department of Hydraulic and Environmental Engineering, Santiago, Chile. Alejandra Vega asvega@uc.cl Centro de Des­
arrollo Urbano Sustentable (CEDEUS) and Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Department of Hydraulic and Environmental Engineering,
Santiago, Chile. Paula Guerra paula.guerra@usm.cl Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María, Department of Chemical and Environmental
Engineering, Valparaíso, Chile. Jaime Pizarro jaime.pizarro@usach.cl Universidad de Santiago, Department of Geographical Engineering,
Santiago, Chile. Katherine Lizama klizama@ing.uchile.cl Universidad de Chile, Department of Civil Engineering, Santiago, Chile.
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | CHILE 161

and protection of water quality are then briefly ad- The systematic implementation of interceptors,
dressed. Lastly, the main conclusions and challeng- wastewater pipes, and sewage treatment and dis-
es are summarized, emphasizing the need for scien- posal plants favorably impacted public health in-
tific and technological development, together with dicators. The implementation of this public policy,
the development of public policies for the improve- which in this case, was undertaken under the sys-
ment and protection of water quality. tem of concessions to private individuals, is asso-
Readers can find additional information on hy- ciated with an increase in the amount of hectares
drography, hydrology and urban water in Chile in watered with water suitable for agriculture, the
the two earlier volumes of this series published by availability of water suitable for complying with
IANAS.1 international food security stands for agricultur-
al export products, more favorable conditions for
tourism and the possibility of recovering energy in
2. Water quality in Chile in relation anaerobic digestion systems (United Nations, 2017).
However, sanitation statistics include disposal
to the MDGs and SDGs through underwater outfalls. In November 2014, it
Performance for MDG was found that nearly 30% of municipal wastewa-
targets and indicators ter was disposed of through underwater outfalls, in
The main goals and indicators associated with wa- 33 systems using this alternative, resulting in near-
ter quality contained in the MDGs are presented in ly 250,000,000 m³ per year of wastewater being
Table 1, including their variation for Chile between dumped into the ocean (SISS, 2014) without second-
1990 and 2015. Water quality in the MDGs is mainly ary treatment. Thus, good performance in Target
related to MDG 7, particularly Target 7C and Indica- 7C of the MDGs occurs partly at the cost of the trans-
tors 7.8 and 7.9. Accordingly, aspects of water qual- fer of wastewater to marine ecosystems.
ity in the MDGs focus on access to drinking water Although it has been suggested that well-de-
and sanitation. signed underwater outfall systems can be safe
(Roberts et al., 2010), there is overwhelming evi-
Water quality and SDG dence that underwater outfalls alter coastal sys-
goals and indicators tems (Gibbs and Miskiewicz, 1995; Roth et al., 2016).
Water quality is a fundamental aspect for several In addition, the final disposal of sewage in the sea
SDGs, beginning with SDG 6, where the availability prevents its reuse, a fundamental aspect for arid
of water for all depends on the quality in relation to and semi-arid regions in northern and central Chile.
its use. Direct indicators of water quality are asso- In regard to potable water, the percentage
ciated with Goals 6.3 and 6.6. For the latter, indica- of compliance with values of parameters estab-
tors 6.3.2 (proportion of waterbodies with good en- lished in the drinking water quality standard
vironmental water quality) and 6.6.1 (change in the (NCh409Of.2005) and its sampling until 2016 was
size of ecosystems related to water over time) are 99.2% in the urban sector with a positive evolution
specifically considered. The list of indicators for the over time (Ministerio del Medio Ambiente, 2017b).
SDG 6 targets is available at UN Water (2017a) y and Noncompliance with parameters such as chloride,
will be discussed for Chile later on. nitrate, total suspended solids, sulfate and arsenic
Tables 2a and 2b show the evolution of the is mainly concentrated in drinking water systems in
drinking water and wastewater indicators for Chile, northern Chile (e.g. Copiapó, Alto Hospicio, Calde-
comparing values with those for the region. These ra, Tierra Amarilla and Chañaral), an aspect that is
tables confirm that Chile has seen a positive evo- addressed through the change of sources and tech-
lution of drinking water and sanitation indicators, nologies in the development plans of the sanitary
and achieved an outstanding performance in the companies, under the supervision of the Depart-
context of Latin America and the Caribbean. ment of Sanitary Services (SISS). Notwithstanding
the foregoing, there should be a periodic review of
1. www.ianas.org/docs/books/Diagnostico_Agua.html, p. 169 the parameters and values regulated in relation to
and www.ianas.org/docs/books/Desafios_ Agua.html, p. 152. the evidence of risks to human health. For example,
162 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | CHILE

Table 1. MDG. Identification of objectives related to water quality and their goals and indicators
for 1990 and 2015
Indicators associated with Target 7C and their values for Chile from 1990 to 2015

Proportion of the population with access to improved drinking water supply sources*
Indicator 7.8: Access to improved
sources of drinking water supply
Goal 7C: To halve the percentage of people without sustainable
access to drinking water and basic sanitation services by 2015

% of total population 100

Rural
80

Urban
60
Total
40
1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 2015

Proportion of the population with access to improved sanitation services**


Indicator 7.9: Access to improved

100
sanitation services

% of total population

Rural
80

Urban
60

Total
40
1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 2015

Source: Compiled by the authors based on MDG Indicators, consulted at http://mdgs.un.org/unsd/mdg/Data.aspx on June 4, 2018.
*Improved sources of drinking water supply correspond to a facility which, due to its design, is protected from external contamina-
tion, particularly contamination of fecal origin. Bottled water users are only considered to have adequate access when they have an
improved secondary supply source. Wells, unprotected springs, water from tanker trucks and bottled water, water taken directly from
rivers, ponds, streams, lakes, reservoirs or irrigation canals are not included. **Improved sanitation service is defined as a facility that
hygienically prevents contact between excrement and humans, animals and insects. It includes toilets and latrines connected to sew-
erage, septic tanks, latrines with a platform of any material that covers the pit except for the discharge opening. Unimproved services
include public or shared facilities, bathrooms with direct discharge into open drainage or ditches, latrines without platforms, bucket
latrines, hanging toilets or latrines, and defecation in the open air, fields or water bodies.

boron is not included in the primary drinking water a high percentage of potable water and sanitation
quality standard, but in the North Macrozone (see provision in 2015. However, national figures do not
Figure 1), there are water sources with high boron fully reflect the efforts that are yet to be made in ru-
values, well above the 2.4 mg L-1. recommended by ral areas where 12.7% of the population lived in 2015
the WHO. (Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas, 2015), as shown
Table 3 presents baselines and goals for several in Tables 1, 2.a and 2.b.
of the SDG 6 indicators, presented in the Diagnosis The supply of drinking water in rural areas is or-
and Implementation of the 2030 Agenda Report and ganized through Rural Potable Water (APR) systems,
the Sustainable Development Goals in Chile (Gobi- outside the system of concessions of sanitation com-
erno de Chile, 2017), associated with the work of the panies that focuses on urban areas. These are the or-
National Council for the Implementation of the 2030 ganizations (committees, cooperatives) that obtain
Agenda.2 At the national level, the figures indicate operating permits from the Ministry of Health, to
which the regulations concerning concessionaires

2. The following participate in the National Council for the Im-


plementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: functions are: To advise the president on the implementation and
the Ministry of Economy, Development and Tourism, the Minis- monitoring of the 2030 Agenda, and coordinate the Implementa-
try of Social Development and the Ministry of the Environment, tion and Follow-up of the Agenda and the SDGs at the national and
which is chaired by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. "Their main regional level" (Exteriores, M.d.R., 2016).
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | CHILE 163

Table 2.a: SDG. Evolution of the main performance variables of Indicator 6.1 of SDG 6 related to water quality
Chile Latin America and the Caribbean North America and Europe

2000 2015 2000 2015 2000 2015


Population (millions) 15,170 17,948 526,890 634,387 1,040,132 1,096,280
% Urban 86 90 75 80 73 76
% population with availability of drinking water
At least basic 95 100 90 96 99 99
Limited - - 1 1 0 0
National Unimproved 5 0 6 2 1 1
Surface water 0 0 3 1 0 0
Annual change rate in basic 0.32 0.38 0.02
At least basic 72 100 71 86 96 97
Limited - - 2 2 1 0
Rural Unimproved 28 0 16 6 3 2
Surface water 0 0 10 6 0 0
Annual change rate in basic 1.84 0.97 0.05
At least basic 99 100 97 99 99 99
Limited - - 0 0 0 0
Urban Unimproved 1 0 3 1 0 0
Surface water 0 0 0 0 0 0
Annual rate of change in basic 0.07 0.14 0
% population using improved water supplies
Managed safely 92 98 61 65 89 94
Accessible in the home 92 99 82 93 91 94
Available when needed 94 99 72 74 - 98
National
Free of contamination 95 98 61 65 96 98
Channeled 94 100 83 91 94 95
Unchanneled 2 0 8 6 5 4
Safely managed - - - - - -
Accessible in the home 53 95 53 79 78 90
Available when needed 67 93 56 61 - -
Rural
Free of contamination - - - - - -
Channeled 62 100 54 72 82 89
Unchanneled 10 0 19 16 15 8
Safely managed 98 98 77 77 - 96
Accessible in the home 98 100 91 91 96 96
Available when needed 99 99 77 77 99 99
Urbano
Free of contamination 99 98 92 93 - 100
Channeled 99 100 93 96 98 98
Unchanneled 0 0 4 3 2 2
Source: adapted from WHO and UNICEF (2017a; 2017b). Safely managed: Drinking water from an improved source that is located in dwellings,
available when needed and free of fecal or prioritary chemical contamination. Basic: Drinking water from an improved source for which collection
time does not exceed 30 minutes per round including queuing. Limited: Drinking water from an improved source for which collection time exceeds
30 minutes per round including queuing. Unimproved: Drinking water from an unprotected well or spring. Surface water: Drinking water taken
directly from a river, dam, lake, pond, stream, canal or irrigation canal.
164 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | CHILE

do not apply (the SISS is not involved in their op- established for 2030 (Table 3). It should be noted
eration), although they must comply with technical that only six systems were considered (associated
standards, such as the drinking water quality norm. with six monitoring stations), including two river
Law 20,998 of 2017 regulating rural health service sections (Maipo in Cambimbao and Biobío at the
management internalizes the technical advice of the outlet), two aquifers (Cachapoal and Tinguiririca)
APR in the Ministry of Public Works. In recent years, and two lakes (Villarrica and Llanquihue). Sub-in-
the Ministry of Public Works has made significant dicator 6.6.1.c has more details related to Indicator
investments in the APR system, especially in loca- 6.3.2, although a reconversion should be considered
tions in northern Chile with high levels of As. How- to reflect the fact that indicator 6.6. refers to a per-
ever, broad, systematic monitoring has yet to be car- centage of change over time, while Indicator 6.3.2
ried out not only of compliance with water quality refers to a percentage of good-quality water bodies
parameters, but also of the cost-effectiveness of the (UN Water, 2017b; UN Water, 2017c). Considering the
solutions adopted. fact that methodologies and guidelines for calculat-
ing the indicators were only recently established, it
First steps in baselines and goals is encouraging that there are already estimates for
for water quality indicator six bodies of water, the necessary establishment of
For Indicator 6.3.2 of the SDGs, a baseline of 67% of new secondary water quality standards will allow
good-quality water bodies and a target of 80% were the calculation of indicators for other waterbodies

Table 2.b: Evolution of main performance variables of Indicator 6.2 of SDG 6 related to water quality
Chile Latin America and the Caribbean North America and Europe

2000 2015 2000 2015 2000 2015

Sanitation (% population)
At least basic 92 100 75 86 96 97
Limited 0 0 4 5 1 1
Unimproved 6 0 11 6 4 2
National Open-air defecation 2 0 10 3 0 0
Annual rate of change in basic 0.54 0.7 0.1
Annual rate of change of open-
-0.15 -0.44 0.00
air defecation
At least basic 67 99 47 68 89 94
Limited 0 0 3 5 1 1
Unimproved 29 0 20 15 10 5
Rural Open air defecation 3 1 29 11 0 0
Annual rate of change in basic 2.12 1.41 0.32
Annual rate of change of open-
-0.16 -1.21 -0.01
air defecation
At least basic 96 100 84 90 98 98
Limited 0 0 4 5 1 1
Unimproved 2 0 8 4 1 1
Urban Open air defecation 2 0 3 1 0 0
Annual rate of change in basic 0.28 0.38 0.01
Annual rate of change of open-
-0.15 -0.15 0.00
air defecation
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | CHILE 165

% population using improved sanitation systems


Safely managed 27 85 10 22 74 78
In-situ disposal 6 5 - - - -
Emptied and treated off site 0 0 - - - -
National Wastewater treatment 21 80 10 22 74 78
Latrines and others 5 1 11 9 6 5
Septic tank 7 9 17 17 10 10
Connection to sewerage 80 90 47 60 79 82
Safely managed - - - - 42 47
In-situ disposal - - - - - -
Emptied and treated off site - - - - - -
Rural Wastewater treatment 3 20 2 5 42 47
Latrines and others 28 13 20 22 16 14
Septic tank 28 63 18 32 28 29
Connection to sewerage 11 22 9 14 45 50
Safely managed 47 81 12 27 86 87
In-situ disposal 2 1 - - - -
Emptied and treated off site 0 0 - - - -
Urban Wastewater treatment 45 80 12 27 86 87
Latrines and others 1 0 8 5 3 3
Septic tank 3 2 16 13 4 4
Connection to sewerage 91 98 60 72 91 92
Source: adapted from WHO and UNICEF (2017a; 2017b). Safely managed: Use of improved facilities that are not shared with other households and
where excreta are properly disposed on site or transported to off-site treatment systems. Basic: Use of facilities that are not shared with other house-
holds. Limited: Improved facilities shared by two or more households. Unimproved: Use of latrines without a platform, hanging latrines or bucket
latrines. Open air defecation: Disposal of human feces in fields, forests, bushes, open bodies of water, beaches and other spaces or with solid waste.

of interest throughout the country. According to the which include the state of aquatic environments,
Atlas del Agua 2016 (Dirección General de Aguas, pressures and biodiversity conservation efforts,
2016), Chile has 101 hydrographic basins, 1,251 rivers, such as the National Biodiversity Strategy (Comis-
12,784 lakes and lagoons and 24,114 glaciers, with a ión Nacional de Medio Ambiente, 2003)3 and the
total of 829 fully-functioning water quality moni- Green Growth Strategy (Ministerio del Medio Am-
toring stations (Figure 1). The recent adoption of biente, 2013). A more comprehensive approach to
secondary water quality standards and surveillance environmental accounts is considered in the Na-
plans for priority basins in Chile will be an import- tional Environmental Accounts Plan (Ministerio
ant input for increasing coverage of the water qual- del Medio Ambiente, 2016). This plan establishes
ity indicators for SDG 6. the institutional and operational implementation
of the Integrated System of Environmental, Ecosys-
Towards a more comprehensive tem and Economic Accounts (SICAEE). The SICAEE
calculation of pressures and interactions “responds to the need to advance integrated systems
of water quality of statistical production, in order to respond to the
The MDGs and SDGs also consider aspects of sus-
tainability indirectly related to water quality. Chile 3. The Council of Ministers for Sustainability (CMS) recently ap-
has promoted initiatives oriented towards coordi- proved the National Biodiversity Strategy for the period 2017-
nating efforts and reports on sustainability aspects 2030 (Ministerio del Medio Ambiente, 2018).
166 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | CHILE

growing national and international demands for co- Report on the Status of the Environment (Ministe-
herent and consistent environmental information, in- rio del Medio Ambiente, 2017b) notes that in 2015,
tegrated into economic and social information" and the activities reported to the RETC which created
thus "respond to the environmental measurements in the most emissions into surface water bodies were
the United Nations statistical program (ODS) and the the elimination of residues and wastewater, san-
commitment to international organisms such as the itation and similar activities (56.6%), copper ex-
OECD, European Union, United Nations and CBD”. In traction (16.5%) and aquiculture and related ser-
regard to pressure on water quality under a DPSIR vices (14.7%), whereas those that created the most
approach (Driving forces-Pressure-State-Impact-Re- emissions into groundwater were beverage produc-
sponse) (European Environment Agency, 1999), the tion (48.7%), the production, processing and con-
Pollutant Emission and Transfer Register (RETC) servation of meat, fruit, pulses, vegetables, oils and
is currently operating (Ministerio del Medio Ambi- fat (27%) and livestock raising (13.3%).
ente, 2017a), integrated into the National System of
Environmental Information for compiling environ-
mental accounts. The RETC “is a database designed 3. Water quality monitoring network
to: capture, collect, systematize, conserve, analyze
and disseminate information on emissions into the General Directorate of Water (DGA)
air and water, waste and transfers of contaminants Monitoring network
that are potentially harmful to health and the envi- The DGA is the state agency under the authority of
ronment, produced in industrial or non-industrial the Ministry of Public Works which operates the in-
activities”. The RETC provides information on the land water quality network, including surface (riv-
location and magnitude of emissions into surface ers, lakes) and groundwater. The distribution of
and groundwater by productive activity. The Third 829 water quality stations, together with a sum-

Table 3: 2030 Baselines and targets for SDG 6 indicators


Goal Indicator 2015 Base 2030 Goal Notesa
6.1.1 Proportion of the population with safely managed drinking water Tier I; MI; National
6.1 97.95 100
supply services (%) valueb
6.2.1 Proportion of the population that uses safely managed sanitation Tier I; MI; National
6.2 96.53 100
services, including a hand washing facility with soap and water. value
Tier II; MI; Nation-
6.3.1 Proportion of safely treated wastewater (%) 99.89 99.98
al value
6.3 Tier III; MI; See
6.3.2 Proportion of good quality water bodies 67 80 Note c and Indica-
tor 6.6.1c
6.4.1 Change in the efficiency of water use over time N/I -
Municipal 66.42 Tier III; MN
NA
Energy 5.22 Tier III; MN
Industrial 0.83 Tier III; MN
Tier II; MN; Year
6.4.2 Stress level due to water scarcity: extraction of fresh water as a
6.4 1.47 2014, National
proportion of available freshwater resources.
value
Municipal 0.19 NA Tier II; MN
Energía 1.25 Tier II; MN
Industrial 0.03 Tier II; MN
Agricultural 3.25 Tier II; MN
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | CHILE 167

6.5.1 Degree of application of integrated water resource management


6.5 13.5 30 Tier II; MI
(0-100)
6.5.2 Proportion of area of transboundary basins with an operating Tier II; MI
N/I NA
arrangement for cooperation in the field of water. undefined
See note Tier III; MI; See
6.6.1 Change in the extent of water-related ecosystems over time 0
d Note c
6.6.1.a Change in the spatial extent of the aquatic ecosystem (km²) N/I
Lake Villarrica-South Coastline 176 NA Tier III; See Note e
Lake Llanquihue-Octay Port 870.5
6.6.1.b Change in the amount of water in the aquatic ecosystem N/I
Lake Villarrica-South Coastline (km³) 21
Lake Llanquihue-Octay Port (km³) 152.9
Maipo River in Cabimbao (m³/s) 111.55 NA Tier III; See Note e
6.6 Biobío river at outlet (m³/s) 954
Cachapoal Aquifer (SHACf) Pelequén-Malloa-San Vicente de Tagua Tagua N/I
Tinguiririca Aquifer (SHAC ) Tinguiririca Superior
f
N/I
6.6.1.c Change in water quality N/I
Lake Villarrica-South Coastline (%) 70
Lake Llanquihue-Octay Port (%) 97 Tier III; Corre-
sponds to Indi-
Maipo River in Cabimbao (%) 90 NA
cator 6.3.2. See
Biobío river at outlet (%) 47 Note e
Cachapoal Aquifer (SHAC ) Pelequén-Malloa-San Vicente de Tagua Tagua
f
100
Tinguiririca Aquifer (SHACf) Tinguiririca Superior (%) 81
Source: adapted from Gobierno de Chile, 2017. Notes: a) Corresponds to the classification of the International Statistical Commission of SDG Indi-
cators. Tier I: Conceptually clear indicator, established methodology and available standards and data produced regularly by the countries; Tier II:
Conceptually clear indicator, established methodology and available standards but data not produced regularly by the countries; Tier III: Indicator
for which there is no established methodology and standards or methodology/standards are being developed/tested. b) Includes the categories
"Public Network" and "Well"; Excludes "River, slope, lake or estuary", "Tanker truck" and "Other source". c) Lake Villarrica (south coast station);
Lake Llanquihue (Puerto Octay station); Maipo river (Maipo station in Cabimbao); Biobío river (North outlet station); the Cachapoal Aquifer (SHAC
Pelequén-Malloa-San Vicente de TaguaTagua) and the Tinguiririca Aquifer (SHAC Tinguiririca Superior) are reported. d) Values incorporated in each
sub-indicator. e) Data are only available for specific water bodies. National indicator pending. f) SHAC: hydrogeological system of common use. N/I:
No information. NA: Goal not defined.

mary of the demographic and hydrological char- 2016). The distribution criterion of the stations con-
acteristics of the four macrozones of Chile (North, siders areas of water scarcity, high population den-
Center, South and Southern) is shown in Figure 1. sity and areas of anthropic pressure. It is designed
Approximately 61% of the basins have water quality to have stations that make it possible to identify the
monitoring stations, roughly 85% of which monitor "natural state" and stations that make it possible
surface waters while the remaining 15% monitor to identify the effect of pressure on water quality.
groundwater4 (Dirección General de Aguas, 2014). A However, in practice it is difficult to determine what
monitoring network exists to evaluate the trophic the natural state is for dissolved salts and metals in
condition of 20 lakes and lagoons, three of which many Andean basins, given that natural enrichment
are located in the Central Macrozone and 17 in the and mining operations ocurr in the headwaters of
Southern Macrozone (Dirección General de Aguas, these basins.
Sampling takes place four times a year (one
4. This statistic does not consider stations in the minimal lake per season) for surface water since 2017, and three
network. or four times in previous years. For groundwater,
168 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | CHILE

sampling is carried out twice a year, in autumn and Other sources of water quality
spring (Gobierno de Chile, 2017). There is a very information from public institutions
small proportion of hydrometric stations that have a. Surveillance plans associated with second-
multiparameter sensors which continuously deliv- ary environmental quality standards (NSCA)
er information through the satellite platform. Wa- of waters. NSCAs seek the protection or con-
ter quality sampling is carried out by DGA staff, and servation of the environment. To this end, they
the analyses are performed by the DGA staff central determine surveillance areas where systematic
laboratory, which has ISO 17,025 accreditation.5 Once monitoring of specific parameters is carried out
the results of the analyses are available, they are en- on a control network and also define a comple-
tered into the BNA database (National Water Bank) mentary observation network to evaluate the
and made available to the public through the CIRH performance of the NSCAs. The oversight plans
(Water Resources Information Center) platform. associated with the NSCAs are designed by the
The parameters measured by the DGA in the Superintendency of the Environment (SMA).
field are temperature, pH, electrical conductivi- They are implemented by the DGA and form
ty and dissolved oxygen, whereas the parameters part of the water quality database. If reports
measured in the laboratory include a wide range of determine that the standard is not met, a sat-
metals, anions, nutrients and an aggregated organ- urated zone is declared and a decontamination
ic parameter (chemical oxygen demand) (Dirección plan established, whereas if a parameter com-
General de Aguas, 2014). The Environmental Labo- plies and falls below the established limit, yet
ratory of the DGA currently measures 60% of the exceeds 80% of this value, the area is declared a
regulated parameters and plans to measure 80% latent area and a prevention plan is established.
of the parameters contained in secondary water The NSCAs of the following basins are current-
quality standards by 2022. The centralization of the ly in effect: Serrano (2010), Llanquihue (2010),
analyses and the availability of resources prevent Maipo (2014), Villarrica (2013) and Biobío (2015),
the analysis of other parameters that require more while Aconcagua, Mataquito, Elqui, Rapel, Huas-
expeditious analysis, such as BOD5. The list consid- co and Valdivia are under development.6
ers the basic parameters proposed by UN Water b. Environmental Impact Assessment Sys-
(2017b), whereas other relevant parameters on the tem (SEIA) of the Environmental Assess-
list of progressive monitoring parameters are not ment Service (SEA). A wide range of new in-
included. Considering the pressures on water qual- vestment projects or their modifications must
ity that could be relevant in some basins, the moni- undergo an environmental impact analysis.7
toring of the DGA reported by Dirección General de Those that may have potential impacts on wa-
Aguas (2014) does not consider parameters such as ter quality require the establishment of a base-
alkalinity, turbidity, suspended solids, hydrocarbon, line of potentially impacted systems in the sit-
pesticides, volatile organic compounds, emerging uation without a project and a monitoring plan
contaminants or microbiological parameters. How- during implementation and operation. This in-
ever, as a result of the progressive implementation formation is publicly available in the electron-
of the secondary environmental quality standards, ic file of the evaluation of each project in the
these parameters will be part of the surveillance SEIA and through the files of the SMA, respon-
plans according to the needs identified in regulat- sible for monitoring the Environmental Qualifi-
ed water bodies, consistent with the concept of pro-
gressive monitoring parameter.
6. The NSCA of the Valdivia river basin was in effect from Decem-
ber 2014 to September 2016, but was canceled after a claim was
filed with the Environmental Court. Its drafting was resumed
and in December 2017 it was undergoing a process of public
5. ISO/IEC 17025 - Testing and calibration laboratories, “enables consultation.
laboratories to prove that they operate competently and gener- 7. Law 19,300 of General Bases of the Environment and its as-
ate valid results, thus promoting confidence in their work na- sociated regulations determine which projects must undergo an
tionally and around the world", https://www.iso.org environmental impact assessment.
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | CHILE 169

Figure 1. Distribution of the DGA water quality monitoring network and general description of the four
macrozones defined by the DGA

Source: compiled by the authors based on the Atlas of Water (DGA, 2016) and the 2017 census. Available at: https://www.censo2017.cl/
170 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | CHILE

cation Resolutions (RCA) defined at the end of conditions, as in the basins of the Aconcagua and
the evaluation in the SEIA. (Gaete et al., 2007), Maipo-Mapocho rivers, fed by
c. SISS. It supervises the sanitary service conces- the Yerba Loca estuary (Montecinos et al., 2016; Pas-
sions that operate in urban areas, controlling ten et al., 2015; Segura et al., 2006), Rapel (Pizarro
compliance with drinking water quality stan- et al., 2003) and Mataquito (Tapia et al., 2009). In
dards and the discharge of treated wastewater. general, the high concentration of dissolved salts
It also monitors compliance with regulations in northern basins is due to a combination of high
for the discharge of liquid waste into surface evaporation with hydrothermal vents, acid drain-
and marine waters. age and the outcrop of brackish groundwater. Lat-
er, the case of arsenic in the basins of the Lluta, Loa
4. Macrotrends in water quality and Elqui rivers is presented and discussed in more
detail, as cases of enrichment by metals and metal-
parameters in Chile loids from natural contributions and sources asso-
The study by Vega et al (2018) undertakes an anal- ciated with mining. Towards the south, the geologi-
ysis of trends in water quality parameters and the cal framework changes, saline tributaries decrease
following sections use it as the basis for discussion. and pluvial and nival runoff increases, creating cur-
Since this study has integrated data from stations rents with lower concentrations of dissolved salts.
in different tributaries per basin since the 1980s, as The average concentrations of nitrate are high
well as data from different years, it does not neces- for three basins in the Central Macrozone (Acon-
sarily reflect current quality, as can be seen in the cagua, Maipo and Rapel), and three basins in the
parameters positively impacted by improvements Northern Macrozone (Copiapó, Huasco and Elqui).
in sanitation. In a smaller range, three basins in the South Macro-
zone (Itata, Biobío and Imperial) have enrichment
Surface water: rivers and estuaries with respect to other basins further south (Toltén
Figure 2 presents a graphic summary of the quality and Valdivia). Enrichment by nitrate in water is as-
of surface water in the rivers and estuaries of se- sociated with diffuse pollution in urban areas and
lected basins using the DGA water quality database agroindustrial practices and livestock (e.g., Fernan-
and the methodology of Vega et al., (2018). dez et al., 2017; Fuentes et al., 2014; Ribbe et al., 2008).
pH values generally vary between 6.5 and 8.5, The concentrations of COD8 show high values
with two basins in the Northern Macrozone with in two basins, when compared with the rest of the
exceptionally low values, which have been associ- country. In the Central Macrozone, the BOD shows
ated with acid drainage present in the basins of the high values in the River Maipo Basin, due to the re-
Lluta River (Guerra et al., 2016a; Guerra et al., 2016b; cord discharges of untreated or minimally treat-
Leiva et al., 2014) and the Elqui river (Espejo et al., ed wastewaters, mainly into the Mapocho River,
2012; Flores et al., 2017; Oyarzun et al., 2013; Oyarzun prior to the sanitation plan of the 1990s. (Pflieger,
et al., 2012; Ribeiro et al., 2014). 2008). The dramatic change caused by this plan
The electrical conductivity in general shows a has permitted previously unthinkable initiatives,
trend from high values in the North Macrozone to such as the Mapocho 42K Project, which brings the
exceptionally low values in the South and Southern Mapocho river channel closer to the urban popula-
Macrozones. In the Northern Macrozone, there are tion. This consists of a system of integrated parks
values of 15 mS cm-1, for example, in the Salado river with a cycle-path on the banks of the river (Iturria-
in the Loa river basin, which receives water from the ga et al., 2013).
El Tatio geothermal field, an important source of As
and boron (Dadea et al., 2001; Romero et al., 2003).
The Lluta river basin also has high values of elec-
trical conductivity, As and boron. Although Andean
8. Chemical Oxygen Demand. Aggregate measure of concentra-
mineral enrichments continue towards the Central tion of organic compounds, whose degradation creates dissolved
Macrozone, the contributions of dissolved salts and oxygen consumption, which is expressed as oxygen demand (mg
metals are diluted by more favorable hydrological O2 L-1). The value of the COD can be seen as an oxygen “debt”.
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | CHILE 171

Figure 2. Graphic summary of surface water quality in selected watersheds

Source: Compiled by the authors on the basis of data from the DGA.
172 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | CHILE

Surface water: lakes,


lagoons and reservoirs
The results of the DGA for 20 lakes show that there sorption, coagulation with ferric chloride followed
are three lakes with mesotrophy and two with hy- by filtration and inverse osmosis (e.g., Aracena &
peratrophy, while all the rest are oligotrophic (Gen- Muñoz, 2017; SISS, 2013).
eral Water Directorate, 2016). Nitrate and dissolved salts in the Northern
There is overwhelming evidence that there is Macrozone come from a combination of geologi-
enrichment of metals and metalloids in a number cal formations and arid hydrological environments,
of lakes and reservoirs in Chile (e.g., Contreras et whereas in the Central and South Macrozones, it
al., 2015; Galleguillos et al., 2008; Pizarro et al., 2003; would be locally associated with urban pollution
Pizarro et al., 2009). The analysis of sediment col- and diffuse agricultural pollution (Arumi et al., 2005;
umns in lakes and reservoirs can provide a histor- Donoso et al., 1999; Fernandez et al., 2017; Fuentes et
ical record of sources of contamination, as well as al., 2014; Yevenes et al., 2016). The high concentra-
evidence of the transfer of pollutants between sedi- tions of sulfate, chloride, nitrate and/or As in the
ments and the water column in rural and urban en- North and Central Macrozones raise a challenge of
vironments (e.g., Hansen, 2012; Thapalia et al., 2010; sustainability in the production of drinking water
Yang & Rose, 2003). In particular, it is important to in cities in northern Chile (e.g. Arica, Iquique, Co-
recognize the links between the flows of metals piapó, among others), where it is necessary to in-
from sediment to the water column (e.g. oxide-re- vest in technologies that demand the use of energy
duction gradients that can reductively dissolve iron and reagents to achieve the limits established in the
oxides or oxidative sulfides) with the cycles of nu- drinking water quality standard.
trients, organic matter, hydrological conditions and
waste discharge (e.g., Tapia & Audry, 2013; Vega et
al., 2017). 5. Pollution and decontamination
Groundwater
processes at a regional scale
Electrical conductivity follows a downward trend Metals in basins of the Northern
from north to south, as do boron and chloride. The and Central Macrozones of Chile
arid basins of the north are characterized by the Basins in central and northern Chile are perma-
presence of environments with high evaporation, nently exposed to the natural and anthropogenic
functioning as a salt concentrating mechanism pollution of their waters. An example of the former
which, together with the evapotranspiration gen- is the high level of As, which has affected popula-
erated by agriculture, is associated with high con- tions since ancient times, as borne out by the anal-
ductivities (e.g. Lluta, San José, Loa, Copiapó, Huas- ysis of the mummified remains of the Chinchorro
co). It has been established that aquifer waters culture (7000-2000 years BCE) (Bundschuh et al.,
in desert areas such as the Pampa del Tamarugal 2012). One example of the latter is the intense min-
(near Iquique) obey regional circulation patterns ing activity in the north, which creates wealth and
that bring water from the northeast to the south- national progress, yet at the same time is a factor
west, passing through saline environments, while of concern for potential contamination due to ac-
low salinity waters may emerge due to fault zones cidental and diffuse discharges in surface waters
(Magaritz et al., 1990). and aquifers. This produces an impact on the health
As has levels of approximately 10 μg L-1 in the of the inhabitants, and the deterioration of aquat-
groundwater9 of the North and Central Macro- ic and terrestrial ecosystems, as well as metal-rich
zones (aquifers in the north zone of Santiago). This waste.
has forced a number of sanitation companies and An analysis of the water quality of water riv-
APR to implement As removal systems through ad- ers in the north and center of Chile (Pizarro et al.,
2010b), shows that in the Elqui river, the average
9. Limit for As in drinking water recommended by WHO and concentration of As of recent decades is 1.705 μg
maximum limit established by NCh409 /1.Of. 2005. L-1, which is much higher than the level established
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | CHILE 173

Table 4. Historical average of concentrations in 12 rivers in the North and Central zones of Chile.
DGA data, for 21 years (1987-2008)
As Cu Cr Hg Cd Mo Pb SO42-
Basins
(μg L-1) (μg L-1) (μg L-1) (μg L-1) (μg L-1) (μg L-1) (μg L-1) (μg L-1)
Endorheic 814 2,440 28 9 26 60 ND 236.3
Copiapó 483.6 77 60 148 77 60 148 483.6
Huasco 10 123 31 6 93 60 292 360.2
Los Choros 175.6 ND 60 817 ND 60 817 175.7
Elqui 1,705 6,082 26 3 28 70 147 445.7
Limarí 6 41 30 3 35 60 60 77.1
Choapa 14 78 25 4 43 138 63 110.6
Petorca 182 43 54 3 ND 63 ND 52.8
Ligua 54.4 ND 68 ND ND 68 ND 54.4
Aconcagua 132 789 25 87 ND 175 80 115,1
Maipo 12 1,293 55 9 35 463 167 215.6
Rapel 119.3 45 215 281 45 215 281 119.3
NCh1333.Of78 100 200 100 1 10 10 5.000 250
Source: Adapted from Pizarro et al., 2010b. NA: not available; in bold, amount in excess of NCh1333.Of78 for irrigation.

Table 5. Average annual concentration of NO3- -N and PO43--P of nine rivers in the Central and South
zones of Chile. DGA data, for 23 years
Rivers Rapel Mataquito Maule Itata Biobío Imperial Toltén Valdivia Bueno
NO3--N (mg L-1) 1.57 0.55 0.49 0.35 0.21 0.4 0.11 0.31 0.18
PO4³--P (mg L-1) 0.23 0.29 0.24 0.41 0.15 0.23 0.23 0.1 0.12
Source: adapted from Pizarro et al., 2010b).

by the Chilean Standard for water quality require- pling, the intensification of studies on the effect of
ments for irrigation (NCh1333.Of78). This high val- heavy metal contamination on the food chain and
ue is attributed to the development of gold mining the biodiversity of local flora and fauna.
in the basin, which has seen intense activity since
the 1980s. This study shows another six rivers with Nutrients and eutrophication in
average concentrations of As higher than those rec- basins in the Central and South
ommended by this standard: endorheic basins> Co- Macrozones of Chile
piapó> Petorca> Los Choros> Aconcagua> Rapel. The concentration of nitrogen (N) and phospho-
The concentrations of certain metals also exceed rus (P) has increased six and ninefold, respective-
this standard (Table 4). ly, from the time prior to industrialization, in the
The water shortage in the North and Central world’s main rivers (Boyer et al., 2006; Dumont et
areas and the decrease in rainfall due to climate al., 2005; Meybeck, 1982; Smith et al., 2003; Smith,
change tends to aggravate the availability of water 2002). Rivers in the Central and South zones of Chile
in both quality and quantity, affecting the activities are no exception to this trend. The increasing con-
that take place in the basin. These conditions raise tribution of N and P affects water quality and in-
the need to implement water monitoring programs creases the process of eutrophication. Depending
that consider the quantification of emerging pol- on the basin, these nutrients come from forestry,
lutants, the improvement of the frequency of sam- agricultural, wine and livestock activities, which
174 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | CHILE

have increased greatly in recent decades. These slight variations, whereas in those where the basin
rivers are important as regards the availability of has been intervened in more as a result of the in-
water for the area, with flows controlled by annual crease in forest, tourist and/or agricultural activi-
precipitation and the melting of snow and glaciers ties, these nutrients tend to increase (Pizarro et al.,
during the spring-summer period. 2016), which could accelerate the process of eutro-
The record concentrations of N and P of cer- phication lakes naturally undergo.
tain basins are shown in Table 5. The use of sta- Lastly, the variation in the concentration of nu-
tistical models showed that the concentration of trients in the rivers does not show substantial dif-
N and P has increased in six (BioBío, Bueno, Im- ferences from the concentration of the latter in the
perial, Maule, Rapel and Valdivia) and two (Rapel world’s main rivers. It is impossible to rule out the
and Maule) of the basins analyzed, respectively fact that, if the increase in water continues, rivers
(Pizarro et al., 2010a). The average concentration of could acquire the status of contaminated systems
N in the Rapel river is the highest due to the intense in the near future. Special attention should be paid
activity of agri-food and agricultural industries, to the management and planning of activities in the
and the marked increase in tourism in the area and lake basins which, although currently considered
population density. However, the greatest increase oligotrophic systems, in the event of a rapid expan-
has been recorded in the Biobío, Bueno, and Valdiv- sion of agriculture, livestock breeding and intensive
ia rivers, whose levels of concentration failed to tourism, these waters could be provided with ex-
show an increase in the first years in the study, yet cess nutrients that accelerate the degradation pro-
experienced a major variation in the last 10 years cess, which is currently relatively controlled. These
analyzed. The concentration of P only shows an in- studies could serve as a reference for future moni-
crease in the last decade in the Rapel and Maule riv- toring programs and pollution mitigation projects
ers, while the Biobío, Itata and Valdivia rivers have at the basin level.
a certain stability in the concentration of P. Howev-
er, in the Itata River, there is an increase that could
be explained by the forest development achieved in 6. Pollution and decontamination
the basin during the decade from 1990 to 2000. The
evolution of these nutrients should be observed,
processes at local scale: the case
which could make it possible to detect the effects of As in three Andean basins
of population growth and the impact caused by As is a toxic element mobilized through water, soil
agro-industrial, livestock, forestry and tourism ac- and air both anthropically and naturally. Its main
tivities in the area studied. origin is geological deposits rich in elements of
Water quality behavior must also be considered economic interest, whose exploitation has accel-
in the lakes in this area, water bodies that are in- erated the availability of As. Moreover, the hydro-
timately related to rivers, either because the latter thermal natural sources associated with volcanic
are tributaries or constitute their natural discharge activity constitute significant contributors of As.
forming rivers that flow into the sea. Lakes witness The dynamics of As in three basins located in arid
activities in the basin and provide information on or semi-arid zones of the north: the Lluta, Loa and
the biogeochemical changes caused by natural or Elqui rivers (Figure 1) will be presented below.
anthropogenic disturbances, and the effluent water These cases serve to measure the complexity and
they form is the means of transport that influences challenges in understanding the speciation of pol-
the final destination of the results of these changes. lutants, especially metals and metalloids, which is
Lakes in the area are monomictic and oligotrophic a determining factor in their fractionation between
with low levels of chlorophyll and high transparen- solid and dissolved phases, which in turn deter-
cy (Soto, 2002; Soto & Campos, 1995). mines their bioavailability.
The concentration of N and P in the past two
decades, in lakes whose basins have not under- Lluta river basin
gone significant changes in land use and with a ten- The basin originates in the Tacora Volcano (~5,500
dency to maintain native forest, has shown very masl), from which hydrothermal sources rich in
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | CHILE 175

metals, metalloids and salts emanate (Capaccioni precipitates, thereby increasing the settling velocity
et al., 2011). To one side of the volcano stands the and improving the removal of As (Arce et al., 2017),
Tacora Sulfur company, abandoned since the 1960s, (2) hourly variations in the flow due to freeze-thaw
where deposits of tailings and rocks exposed to wa- cycles cause variations in dissolved As (Guerra et
ter and air produce an acid drainage stream known al., 2016b). When the Azufre River thaws, suspend-
as the Sulfur River (Leiva et al., 2014). ed solids dissolve (Figures 3a and 3b), while hours
This tributary, with pH <2 and concentrations later, the increase in the Caracarani river flow di-
of As > 2 mg L-1, is the main source of water pollution lutes the salts and provides OH- ions for the precip-
in the basin. The Lluta river basin is a clear example itation of the mineral phases of iron, (3) the hetero-
of the diversity and complexity of biological, geo- geneous mixture that occurs in the vicinity of the
chemical, hydrological and hydrodynamic process- confluence (Figure 3c) generates local points that
es that control the fate and transport of pollutants. favor the precipitation of iron phases and retention
Four hundred meters from the source of the Azufre of As due to the pH and iron concentrations (Guerra
River there is a wetland where biogeochemical pro- et al., 2016a), and (4) the particle size also increases
cesses occur that modify the speciation of As (Leiva or decreases depending on how particles migrate
et al., 2014); for example, extremophilic bacteria ox- from one chemical environment to another, there-
idize As from arsenite to arsenate, a less toxic spe- by determining whether As remains suspended in
cies that is more prone to being sorbed onto iron the aqueous phase or settles on the river bed, de-
oxyhydroxides, present in the wetland as orange pending on the particle size achieved. The concep-
sludge (Leiva et al., 2014). As a result of these local tual model of these processes is shown in Figure
processes, dissolved As almost entirely disappears 3d, which is discussed in detail later.
within a few meters. Understanding these pro- Hydraulic infrastructure can also impact the
cesses is essential to identifying the determinants destination of these pollutants. Models have pre-
of water quality, providing a fundamental control dicted that the accumulation of sediments rich in As
point to improve or protect the resource. in anaerobic environments can lead to the release
At the confluence of the river Azufre and the of reduced species of As, as could happen in the
Caracarani river (pH 8.6) a series of geochemical, Chironta reservoir (Contreras et al., 2015), currently
hydrological and hydrodynamic interactions occur under construction in the Lluta River (confluence of
that promote the formation of iron and aluminum the Caracarani river with the Colpitas river). How-
oxyhydroxides, modifying the dissolved and solid ever, the presence of sulfur in anoxic environments
fractionation of As (Abarca et al., 2017; Guerra et al., may contribute to the immobilization of arsenite on
2016a; Guerra et al., 2016b). sulfide phases such as mackinawite (FeS) (Contre-
These precipitates tend to settle in the river- ras et al., 2015).
bed, reducing the concentration of As and metals In addition to highlighting the importance of
in the water: 100 m downstream of the confluence, understanding local processes in critical nodes of
total As decreases by half. Concentrations of As of the system, the case of the Lluta River shows the
between 90 and 900 mg kg-1 have been measured hydrological and hydrodynamic interactions, with
in deposits in the Caracarani river bed, much high- specific consequences for the interaction between
er than the base range in sediments (5-10 mg kg-1) hydraulic infrastructure works and water quality.
(Smedley & Kinniburgh, 2002). This example shows
that natural attenuation processes exist in river sys- Loa river basin
tems, where sediment sampling can reflect whether The Loa River flows through the Atacama Desert, the
the bed is a repository or source of pollutants. driest place on earth, and is the only permanent sur-
This process of attenuation at the confluence face water tributary in the Antofagasta Region. Its
can be modified by the presence of other elements main tributaries are the Salado, San Pedro and San
and local and temporary changes in the flow rate. Salvador rivers. Its water has restricted use due to its
Studies on the same site show that: (1) the presence poor quality (high salinity and high concentrations
of organic matter (present in natural systems as hu- of Boron and As), particularly in the vicinity of An-
mic substances) increases the size of oxi-hydroxide tofagasta, a situation intensified by the low availabil-
176 WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | CHILE

ity of water resources and the aridity of the region. as a result of the presence of iron oxi-hydroxides
The presence of As in the basin is mainly due to and because of the precipitation of minerals similar
two factors: (1) The basin is located in the porphyry to loellingite (FeAs2) (Alsina et al., 2014).
copper belt, where the Chuquicamata, El Abra and The confluence of the Salado River with the Loa
Radomiro Tomic deposits contribute to the flow of River in the upper part of the basin also causes a de-
As due to the meteorization of the deposits and the crease in As, mainly due to dilution effects (Rome-
presence of mining tailings (Pell et al., 2013), and (2) ro et al., 2003). However, from the upper part to the
the Salado river tributary rises in the geothermal mouth of the river, its concentration remains within
springs of El Tatio, which has As concentrations of a limited range of 1-2 mg L-1, which is attributed to
over 20 mg L-1 (Landrum et al., 2009). As in the case conditions that do not favor the adsorption of ar-
of the Lluta River, there are a series of biogeochem- senate and the lack of tributaries that contribute
ical processes that control the speciation of As in El to the dilution of As, in addition to the high evap-
Tatio. One of these is the immobilization of As both oration rates (Orellana, 1985; Romero et al., 2003).

Figure 3. Arsenic dynamics in the Lluta river basin


a b

c d

(a) and (b) Change in the concentration of suspended particles due to the thawing of the Azufre River (a) shows the particles before thawing up-
stream; (b) shows how particles dissolve when the river Sulfur, an acid tributary, thaws; (c) incomplete mixing causes the formation of different parti-
cles, which are heterogeneously distributed; (d) conceptual diagram of As regulatory processes. As is released by natural processes (e.g. hydrothermal
vents) or the oxidation of mining waste (e.g. sulfides) and can be subsequently immobilized/mobilized by various physical and chemical processes.
Source: a, b and c, authors’ own photos; d, compiled by the authors.
WATER QUALITY IN THE AMERICAS | CHILE 177

Moreover, the San Salvador River flows into the Loa tions of As are in the range of 0.01-0.1 mg L-1 of As,
River in the middle part of the basin, also contrib- with a pH of approximately 8 (Espejo et al., 2012;
uting As to the system (Romero et al., 2003). Plants Flores et al., 2017; Oyarzun et al., 2013).
and algae are important for the formation of As
repositories (Orellana, 1985; Romero et al., 2003). Conceptual model for the fate and
The latter can accumulate As, achieving concentra- transport of As in Andean environments
tions of between 182 and 11,000 mg kg-1 of As in the Arsenic in Andean systems comes mainly from acid
case of the hyperaccumulating species Chladopho- waters produced by the exposure of mining de-
ra sp.(Pell et al., 2013). They can also contribute to posits and fractured tailings to water and oxygen,
the accumulation of As in sediments, as in the Quil- as well as from geothermal waters. The examples
lagua oasis, rich in aquatic plants and organic mat- presented above show the existence of a series of
ter, which has a high enrichment of As in sediments processes that contribute to the attenuation or en-
compared to Tranque Sloman, which lacks macro- richment of the concentration of As throughout
phytes and has low organic matter content (Bu- them, including the physical processes of sedimen-
gueño et al., 2014). tation-resuspension and chemical reactions of ox-
High concentrations of As in the basin have ide-reduction, precipitation-dissolution of miner