Water Sustainability in Ecuador: Challenges and Opportunities
Jorge Celi is an ecologist and works as a professor at Ikiam Amazon Regional University in Ecuador, where he directs the National Water Reference Laboratory and the UNESCO Chair on Tropical Freshwater Management. Through his work he promotes applied research and education at broad levels of society to support nature conservation and improve people’s quality of life. He carries out research and training activities with the aim of improving our understanding of ecosystems and natural resources and developing innovative solutions for water ́s use, treatment, and reutilization, together with policies and guidelines for the conservation and planning of natural resources.
Ecuador’s water resources are ample and diverse. At the same time, Ecuador is the most densely populated country in South America. This, together with multiple economic activities, is currently degrading water resources and the aquatic ecosystems they rely on, with effects on water quantity and quality, as well as on ecosystem health and diversity. Future population and economic scenarios posse a severe threat to ecosystems and the services that they provide, which would affect the country ́s food and water security. If Ecuador ́s population growth and development trends remain unchanged its water sustainability cannot be granted. There are many challenges and opportunities to achieve water sustainability, including implementing nature-based and cost-effective solutions to water treatment, water harvesting, aquifer recharge, and flood protection, among others, instead of applying expensive and socio-environmentally unsound grey infrastructure. Also, challenging is finding a balance among different land and water uses, prioritizing sustainable over as usual practices, financing and administering sustainable programs, and improving water governance and policy. Here I provide examples of challenges and opportunities to achieve water sustainability in Ecuador.