Water is life. We cannot live without it, and yet many communities depend on water sources that are unsafe for drinking, bathing, fishing or recreation — causing illness and significantly lowering the quality of life for residents and tourists alike.
For over 27 years, the International Community Foundation and our loyal donors have supported the people of Baja California Mexico, through efforts to increase access to and quality of clean water, particularly in coastal communities.
One result of this collaborative work is the Baja Waterkeepers Fund, through which ICF financially and programmatically supports the ten Baja Waterkeepers located throughout the Baja Peninsula. These ten waterkeepers and their host organizations are members of The Waterkeeper Alliance, a U.S. non-profit focused solely on advocating for and protecting clean water in communities around the world. Read on to learn more about what this invaluable group does and how you can help support them, too.
Understanding the Environment
The Baja Waterkeepers are 10 individuals who monitor over 75 sites along the Baja coastline for bacteria, agrochemical, and other pollutants that pose public health risks.
Driven by passion and knowledge, the group stays in close communication with the communities they serve, addressing concerns about the safe use of water when it comes to bathing, fishing, and drinking. This is especially important in communities in or near former mining sites which often have heavy metal contaminants in their water sources.
The Waterkeepers also monitor marine protected areas and national parks to ensure that Mexico’s fishing laws are being enforced. Finally, by conducting educational and business development workshops, they engage the local community in order to ensure a more sustainable, healthy future for the human, and animal, residents of the region.
Keeping the Community Safe
The results of the Waterkeepers’ regular water-quality monitoring tests are regularly uploaded to a free online swim guide. This guide not only ensures that communities know of safe places for their families to swim, but it also helps the local economy. Fishermen and tour operators can make smarter decisions regarding their activities when they know the level of cleanliness of the water — and understanding the impacts that their actions are having on the local resources they depend on, can help to change behaviors for the better! The usefulness of the Swim Guide is proven by the significant boost in public demand for it; between 2015 and 2016 alone, the number of users of the Mexican version increased by over 500%.
The Baja Waterkeepers also build local awareness by conducting beach cleanups and youth leadership programs to protect the 75 watershed ecosystems. These initiatives engage communities in their own self-preservation and teach younger generations that the power and responsibility to create change is in their hands.
Baja Waterkeepers in the Spotlight
To learn more about the Waterkeepers and what motivates them to protect this region, let’s meet two of the members.
Margarita Diaz is particularly passionate about the relationship between the people of Tijuana and the coastal waters that border their homes. As the Executive Director of Proyecto Fronterizo de Educacion Ambiental, she believes keeping locals informed is most important for restoring the water back to its full health so that everyone can enjoy it.
Hector Trinidad is the Program Coordinator of Eco Alianza in Loreto, BCS. He shares his vision with many of his neighbors – sport and commercial fishermen, conservationists, and community members. The vision is “to continue to use their natural resources in a way that is more responsible, better informed, with better practices each time.”
How You Can Help
In February 2017, ICF and other partners of the Baja Waterkeepers kicked off a fundraising campaign to secure $500,000 to sustain the operations, programs, and advocacy efforts of our 10 Baja Waterkeepers for the next 3 years.
By making a donation, you will be supporting this work and changing the lives of people who can’t take clean water for granted. Make a donation today and make a difference for the future.