VIU Student Learns Importance of Water Quality Monitoring in Belize

Water is essential to sustain life. Unfortunately, human activities can pose huge threats to the quality of the water and health of coastlines. In Belize, activities such as fishing, tourism, dredging, coastal development, transportation, agriculture, and aquaculture can result in eutrophication and water pollution. In order to determine specific impacts and develop a plan to mitigate effects of these activities, there must be an institution that is responsible for continuous monitoring and research.

The Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute (CZMAI), located in Belize City, is the leading marine scientific research organization in the country.  The mission of the CZMAI is to support the allocation, sustainable use, and planned development of coastal resources by increasing knowledge and Building alliances in the communities. The mission is obtained through several research and monitoring programs. 

Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute (CZMAI) employees grab sampling water Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute (CZMAI) removing a logger from the Belize River near Belize City.

Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute (CZMAI) employees grab sampling water (left) and employee removes a logger (right) from the Belize River near Belize City.

One of the CZMAI monitoring programs requires the use of data loggers within the Belize River watershed area. The loggers can be found at three different locations along the Belize River. They are used to continuously measure (e.g., every hour) environmental parameters such as: temperature, salinity, PH, conductivity, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, and water depth. In addition, grab samples are collected at these sites to test for nitrates, nitrites, phosphates, and chlorophyll-a. The data collected is then modeled and used to predict changes in water quality associated with certain land use activities.    

On my first day interning at CZMAI I got to visit two of these sites. My colleagues and I lifted the loggers out of the water in order to hook them up to a computer and obtain the data. This was very simple and only took a couple of minutes. We also took grab samples at each site. Although it was very hot and humid near the river, it was a perfect way to start the internship. We even got to see manatees swimming nearby. In just one day at the CZMAI, I learned to appreciate how important water quality monitoring is. Many Belizeans are dependent on water resources for employment and food. In fact, three major contributions to Belize’s GDP are tourism, fisheries, and agriculture, all of which are supported by clean water. In addition to economic value, Belizeans also have a very strong social and cultural connection to the water. For these reasons, it is important to ensure the condition of the water source is of adequate quality. The CZMAI does a great job of this by continuously monitoring and developing management strategies. The future of Belizean waters is in good hands.  

- Jessica Pyett, Bachelor of Geography Natural Resource Management, VIU