While There is a Slight Increase in Water Quality, the Situation is still Critical

River Water Quality Improves, says MARN

The water classified as “good” in rivers increased 2 per cent, to 12 percent in 2011. 

By Gloria Morán

Diario Contra Punto

San Salvador- With its report “River Quality in El Salvador, 2011” the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (MARN) revealed that the water in Salvadoran rivers showed a tendency of improved water quality.

The studies were carried out between April and June of 2011, and the MARN took 123 samples from 55 rivers, including the Paz River, the Grande River in Sonsonate, the Bahia River in Jiquilisco, the Grande River in San Miguel, as well as others.

The information collected showed that none of the rivers had “excellent” water quality, that 12 percent had “good” quality, which shows an increase from 10 percent in 2010; that 50 percent had “average” quality; that 31 percent had “poor” quality, and 7 percent had “terrible” quality.  One of the major findings is that according to the study the Lempa Rivera improved in water quality in the Northern regions of the country.  The improved water quality has provided the conditions for the more aquatic life.

The head of the MARN, Herman Rosa Chazez, said that improved water quality can be attributed to the work done by the ministry in sewer and other waste treatment; for example collecting tires, compost sites, and sewer treatment, among others.

Domestic water is the most contaminated

However, he empathized that while it is true that there has been an increase in the river water considered “good,” that is not enough and he affirmed that the Government will invest more resources in treating sewer water. 

According to Celia Mena, hydrologist with the MARN, this investment is necessary because the water coming from domestic use is the most contaminating to rivers. 

“This type of pollution can be seen by the presence of high concentrations of Coli form fecal bacteria in the water.  During the study, there were concentrations of 3,500,00 bacteria/100 mL found,” says the MARN report.  Celina affirmed that “the water quality of the majority of rivers is deficient for conventional potable water standards,” referring to the fact that only 17 percent of river water can be made drinkable by taking steps like adding bleach, boiling or filtering water. “The quality of river water is improving,” said Rosa Chavez, when he compared the results with those in 2009 where none of water could be classified as “good”.

Other Results

Other results found by the study were that only 26 percent of river water can be used for crop irrigation.

Of the 123 sample sites on a national level, only 26% met irrigation standards, “the other 74% don’t meet the requirements for irrigation due to the high levels of fecal Coli forms, with conductivity levels up to 1319 uS/cm and some areas with elevated levels of sodium and sulfates.”

According to the study, the rivers that meet irrigation standards are the Lempa River and the San Simón River that provide water for the Lempa Acahuapa Irrigation District. While those which didn’t meet the standards are the Sucio River which supplies the Zapotitan Irrigation District with water, the Lempa River in the Northern District and the Acahuapa River that supplies the Lempa Acahuapa District. 

The study showed poor water quality for recreational activities, indicating that only 0.08 percent can be used for recreation, while in 2010 the report showed that 6 percent was adequate for recreation.

“This is not a new situation [the river pollution] and that is why we need more investment and commitment from the Government,” said the head of MARN.

For the original in Spanish