Blog: Punta San Juan (Peru)

Quality Water for All

Punta San Juan reserve in Peru

Punta San Juan reserve in Peru
Water is life. Clean water is essential to healthy living for people, animals, and plants. Water quality impacts life everywhere in Peru, not just in the ocean or along the beach.  Ensuring there is plenty of healthy, quality water is important to the researchers and scientists in the Punta San Juan Reserve every day, but this August’s International Water Quality Month had deeper meaning after devastating floods from a costal El Niño hit Peru in early 2017.

Between January and April 2017, the coast of Peru suffered from massive flooding due to the unusually heavy rainfall El Niño dumped in Peru’s highlands. The water fell so quickly, rivers overflowed and caused mudslides all the way to the coast.  Over 90 people lost their lives, crops were destroyed, 700,000 people became homeless, and clean water was lost for many weeks. With limited food supplies and little to no clean water, people throughout Peru came together to help one another survive.  The devastating floods were a great reminder on how important it is to have clean water.

The Punta San Juan Reserve is situated in the Peruvian desert along the coastline so, flooding from the rivers was not a problem for our staff and volunteers, but the animals were a different story. The water along our beach traditionally stays cold because of upswells in the ocean. This cold water is a refuge for pinnipeds and seabirds when the rest of the ocean gets too warm.  Unfortunately, El Niño warmed our cooler water enough to make it hard for pinniped and bird mothers to find enough food to feed their offspring.  Mothers don’t want to leave their pups for too long, but the warmer coastal waters meant adult females needed to swim further and expend more energy feeding their young. This makes it harder for foraging moms to return to her pup with enough food to keep them healthy.  The seals and sea lions weren’t the only animals impacted by the weather and warmer water; penguins were, too. 2017 saw a marked decrease in penguin nests and breeding successes due to poor pre-breeding foraging conditions in March when coastal waters were too warm for the penguin’s primary diet to come close to shore.

Punta San Juan reserve in Peru

Water quality and water conservation has always been important to us at PSJ. We place buckets under our sinks to collect gray water (water that is clean enough to use, but not clean enough to drink) that we use to flush our toilets and ensure any refuse we make is properly disposed of and doesn’t end up polluting the ocean, along with other water saving measures. Because we are living at a research station in the middle of a desert, our drinkable water has to be delivered to us.  We must make sure we have enough clean, potent water to last until our next delivery.  In order to do this, we conserve and recycle as much water as possible.

Water quality is essential to life everywhere, not just here in Peru. Our changing climate makes weather phenomenon like El Niño more common and, the more common devastating weather systems become, the more everyone will have to work together to ensure there is clean, quality water for all life. 

Posted: 8/28/2017 2:36:55 PM by Steve Pine Filed under: juan, peru, punta, san

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