The San Juan Bay Estuary Program (PEJSJ, for its initials in Spanish) leads several initiatives to monitor the water quality of our ecosystem through three actions:
• Bacteriological monitoring and public notification
• Water quality monitoring by volunteers
• Puerto Rico water quality monitoring day
These three initiatives are based on the participation of our scientific citizens. It is a group of committed volunteers who offer their time and knowledge. Thanks to them, key information is generated on the condition of the water of the most important ecosystem for Puerto Rico’s economy, the San Juan Bay Estuary.
Biodiversity of the San Juan Bay Estuary
The Water Quality Monitoring Program (known by its Spanish initials as PMCAV) began as a perpetual official program by volunteers in 2008, once the EPA approved the Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP). Its coordinator works hand in hand with a corps of certified volunteers, and people from the communities that border the estuarine water bodies.
The objective of the PMCAV is to learn the condition of the SJBE’s water quality and to measure the advances in its restoration. At present, the PMCAV is one of the parameters the organization uses to confirm the success of the implementation of its Comprehensive Management and Conservation Plan (CMCP.)
Traditionally, the responsibility for water quality monitoring rests with the State. That is why the citizen-based and voluntary initiative, has few precedents in Puerto Rico and in the National Estuaries Program of the United States. Hence the relevance of our entity! This has become one of the most reliable sources regarding water quality monitoring. So much so, that the Environmental Quality Board resorts to the PMCAV when preparing the regulatory and compliance reports that it submits to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, such as the 305 (b)/303(d) Integrated Reports.
Thanks to the PMCAV’s work, over the past few years, the Estuary Program has identified a significant amount of pollution sources and situations that directly affect the SJBE’s water quality, such as overflows and discharges of raw sanitary water.
Bacteriological Monitoring and Public Notification
PEJSJ staff perform weekly monitoring to determine the presence of enterococcus sp.fecal bacteria in our estuarine waters. The analysis is carried out in our facilities, without relying on external resources.
The novel monitoring and public notifications program began in 2014 in the area of the Condado Lagoon Natural Reserve. After the passage of Hurricane María, we extended the monitoring to the entire north coast of the San Juan Bay Estuary watershed.
The samples are collected and analyzed every Thursday (weather permitting) and the data is published through the map and social networks.
The samples are prepared and processed using the IDEXX’s Quanti Tray method. The method presents the results as the presence of colony formation units (CFU) for a 100ml sample. To determine the quality of the water the results must compared with the federal standard known as the “Beach Action Value,” which has a limit of no more than 70 (CFU/100ml).
Water Quality Monitoring with Volunteers
The mission of the San Juan Bay Estuary Program (PEJSJ) is to ensure the quality of the waters that affect its watershed. To fulfill it, it works together with volunteers and communities surrounding the bodies of water under study.
The objective is clear: to recover the ecological health of the bodies of water in the SJBE’s watershed.
Undoubtedly, the PMCAV is an essential component of the PEBSJ. And this is so because it allows studying the impact of the activities carried out through the SJBEJ’s Integrated Management and Conservation Plan of the SJBE’s bodies of water.
The PEBSJ Water Quality Monitoring Program has the following main goals:
• Determine the current condition of the Estuary and how it changes over time.
• Identify and correct sources of contamination.
• Raise red flags when a contaminant is observed and notify the corresponding agencies.
• Generate a database for research and publications.
• Educate and train volunteers in environmental monitoring techniques.
• Determine the effect of environmental emergencies in the bodies of water.
• Assess the resilience of waters adversely affected by natural or man-made events.
• Evaluate the effectiveness of the actions implemented by the PEJSJ to improve water quality.
Since 2008, the PEBSJ conducts monthly monitoring through the Water Quality Monitoring Program. This work is carried out with the disinterested and valuable help of committed volunteers.
It should be noted that the PEBSJ is the only organization, both governmental and non-governmental, with a project of such magnitude.
The SJBEP water Quality Monitoring program delimited 25 monitoring stations across the SJBE watershed. These cover 14 bodies of water including: rivers, brooks, estuarine channels, lagoons and the bay.
Participation and Benefits for Volunteers
Those interested in volunteering for the San Juan Bay Estuary (PMEBSJ) Monitoring Program will be chosen through a biannual call. Then they will attend a workshop to learn the program’s basic concepts and the techniques that are applied during field trips.
The monitoring is carried out one week per month (usually the last), in a three-day period (Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday), between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m., if weather conditions permit.
To validate their commitment to the program, the volunteer is expected to participate in at least one of the monthly field trips. Volunteers who complete 20 hours of field work will be certified by the San Juan Bay Estuary Program.
If you are interested in receiving the call for PMEBSJ volunteers and information on other activities, click here.
Puerto Rico Water Quality Monitoring Day
This event was instituted in 2009, and since then it is celebrated in April. It unites citizens who carry out simple water quality tests in rivers, lakes, lagoons, estuaries and the ocean. The goal of the Puerto Rico Water Quality Monitoring Day is to promote awareness of the importance of maintaining our waters in optimum conditions.
Any volunteer wishing to participate will collect water samples and measure parameters such as: temperature, turbidity, oxygen levels, pH and levels of nitrate and ammonia. The volunteer will choose the sampling location. In addition, we will provide them with the specialized monitoring equipment they will use. This equipment consists of a chemical meter based on colors, a thermometer and a disk that will be used to measure turbidity.