Article | 07 Aoû, 2023

Waterkeepers Chaltén: Water Conservation Project Led by Young Women

Guardianes de la Cuenca El Chaltén is a local water advocacy project led by young women dedicated to water conservation. We seek to transform the local water governance of one of the largest water reserves in the world. We involve young people through water conservation training and environmental rights workshops.

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Photo: Neus Martinez Bernat

Guardianes de la Cuenca El Chaltén (Waterkeepers Chaltén) is a socio-environmental program that combines citizen observations, graphic design, and advocacy initiatives for environmental justice. Our objective is to obtain transparency of information about the ecological status of the sub-basins of the Vueltas and Túnel rivers, as sources of one of the largest solid freshwater reserves in the world. 

The implementation of Guardianes de la Cuenca relies heavily on the participation of young people. We develop advocacy activities with young people aged between 12 and 17 and scientific monitoring of water quality with young people aged between 7 and 17. Our work with youth and water monitoring projects started in 2022 with our first project Where the Waters Are Born, in which we trained 30 people to carry on a water sampling protocol - including 20 young people. 

The project coordinators are young women aged 27 and 28, committed to the conservation of aquatic ecosystems. We seek to gain recognition for the unpaid work of aquatic ecosystem defenders and the fundamental role of young women in creating transparent water governance. By raising awareness of the activities carried out by these young women, we are highlighting the way institutions currently operate, and how the lack of participation and transparency means we can't keep track of natural changes and contamination in El Chaltén's water bodies. 

As part of El Chaltén Waterkeepers (Guardianes de la Cuenca El Chlaltén), we develop workshops on the geopolitics of water. With the aim of creating concrete strategies with the young people of El Chaltén, we have formed a working group with teenagers aged between 12 and 17 to work on drafting information notes on the village's main environmental problems. We inform young people about their socio-environmental rights and brainstorm strategies based on these rights, particularly in the context of the new Ezcazú agreement. We form working groups so that the young people can draw up their advocacy strategy to mobilize public institutions and the community for the transparent and participative management of the village's water. We aim to strengthen the environmental leadership of young people by legitimating their thoughts on water management and offering them the opportunity to identify and act as waterkeepers. 

El Chaltén Waterkeeper team also formed scientific water quality monitoring groups, in partnership with the National Park, with children between 7 and 10 years old and teenagers between 12 and 16. Samples are taken for analysis of physicochemical and bacteriological parameters. 

Currently, a lack of planning and investment in managing the impacts of climate change may have repercussions on the well-being of future generations. At present, there is no public policy for adapting to or mitigating the effects of climate change on the territory, even though there are proven risks of GLOF (Glacial Lake Outburst Flood), for example. Involving young people in water management is a way of implementing climate justice on a local scale, by enabling them to identify their own needs in terms of adaptation to climate change and involving them in the assessment of uncertainty.

The village's special position - as the first location downstream from the melting of one of the world's major freshwater reserves - creates opportunities to rethink the ethics of water and its uses on a global scale. Reflecting with young people on the values placed on water, the diversity of uses, and the competition for access to this common good enables us to create a local advocacy strategy that fully integrates the views of the youngest citizens. In the new school year, we will be introducing concepts from the IPCC reports and current projections - elements of knowledge that are not integrated into the curriculum of young middle and high school students. 

We want to create a community of local waterkeepers, equipped to cope with decision-making on water management, on major global reflections linked to the evolution of resources, and to ensure scientific monitoring by consolidating a broad water protection network. In the context of climate change, it is essential for young people to be able to participate in decision-making related to the management of aquatic ecosystems. 

Contact for more details: Marie Anière Martínez, President of the Boana Association