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Voluntarios por el agua
(Water volunteers)


In April 2022 we started this citizen science project to measure the "vital signs" of health of the rivers in the Cajón del Maipo (the Maipo valley). The Comité Ambiental Comunal of San José de Maipo (@cac.sjm) is coordinating the project and we have four science kits and divide the work into 4 measurement sites between the outskirts of Santiago (El Canelo) and Baños Morales up close to the highest mountains of the Andes and the border with Argentina.

Volunteers head to their monitoring stations at 10 am on the first sunday of the month and take the same measurements of water quality and water height. Each kit has a multiparameter instrument, a hardness kit, a bacteria and e-coli test kit and a few paper test kits. Many of these were donated by the company Yalitech and others were purchased by the Universidad del desarrollo (UDD). There is also a turbidity instrument and a disolved oxygen instrument for the project that is only used at one measurement station each month. We are in the early days of the project but we have already a large following and have many students involved in either the design of the monitoring and the communicaction (for example students from the Universidad Católica designed the logo) and also working on working up the data and comparing it with historic measurements from monitoring networks or scientific studies thta have been done.

We are keen to hear about similar citizen science project and measurement methods and also keen to link with scientists already working on research around these rivers and the glaciers that feed them. Please watch our videos and read our articles and feel free to contact us (email me, the Scientific Director or email

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Figure 2. The snow that falls over the mountains is critical to the area receivng the necessary water for the whole year- 2020 was a big snow year and 2022 has started well but for example, 2021 had much less snow.

Central Chile has been experiencing what experts call a mega drought for the last 12 years and the Maipo´s water has dropped by 70 %. Add to this the melting of the glaciers, the area faces real threats.

Figure 1. Map of the water sheds that feed into the Maipo river and the Mapocho river in the north of Santiago. The Metropolitan region contains 999 glaciers that are named on the map.

The measurement sites are marked as 5 stars, from El Canelo (just before Santiago´s drinking water processing plant) up to Baños Morales, very close to the glaciers and the highest mountains.

Read these 3 articles in Spanish: "Proyecto Voluntari@s por el Agua generará sistema de monitoreo de la calidad del agua en la zona alta del Río Maipo"


and "Voluntarios por el Agua: ciencia ciudadana por la defensa de la salud de los ríos del Cajón del Maipo"  


and "YALITECH participa como sponsor en Voluntarios por el agua" 


VIDEO: Universidad del Desarrollo reporting on the project (with English subtitles)

And some photos of the volunteers


Figure 3. Repetitive photography is useful for showing changes in the colour and the quantity of water at the measurement point. Also, any changes in the type of vegetation.

Figure 4. Students monitoring in Valle Arenas, above the official monitoring points, to get an idea of baseline conditions in the mountain springs

Figure 5. The equipment in each kit. Measurements of pH, Conductivity, Temperature, Salinity, Total Dissolved Solids (TDS), Oxido-reduction Potential (ORP), hardness titration kit, nitrate, pH, alkalinity, Lead, Iron, Copper, Chlorine, pesticides and bacteria test kits. The turbidimeter, disssolved oxygen instrument and flow meter are not part of each kit.

Figure 6 and 7. Volunteers monitoring in a snowy Baños Morales in June and in San Gabriel.

Check out our first year report about the first year of measurements. Hopefully I will translate it into English and hopefully we will publish a paper about this.


Informe Voluntarios por el agua 2023

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