Participatory Water Monitoring Projects
Avanzar has developed expertise in the establishment of community-based water monitoring committees in and around extractive projects.
Avanzar established and worked with four community-based water monitoring committees, two in Guatemala, one in Mexico and one in Panama. Having established four committees at four very different sites, Avanzar personnel have developed a strong understanding of the elements that make community-based water monitoring successful as a community engagement vehicle and an independent, technical monitor.
The first committee was established at an operating gold site that is surrounded by Indigenous communities (with two ethnicities) and a strong NGO presence. The second committee was established at an advanced gold exploration project near a small town that is home to a more educated and urban population. The second site has the added complexity of being close to a lake that is shared by two countries. The third committee was established at a copper mining project in the construction phase in an area with limited public services and infrastructure. This committee has expanded in its fifth year to monitor the air in select communities. The fourth committee was established at a mine site that was already operational for six and has severe water scarcity. This fourth committee monitors the quantity of water as well as the quality.
During the establishment of all four committees, Avanzar conducted the initial assessment to determine whether there was interest on behalf of the communities in establishing a community-based water monitoring committee and if so, who should participate, how representatives should be selected and what they deemed to be the critical success factors. Based on this initial research, Avanzar developed and executed a plan to support the communities in setting up a representative water monitoring committee, including: organizing support from the local universities for technical and organizational capacity-building; arranging a third party to be a liaison for transferring funds from the companies to the community committee; liaising with the company on specific issues; working with government authorities to provide community training and increased oversight; and providing on-going support to the monitoring committee in such areas as training, capacity building, and communications to local communities, and external constituencies such as governments, NGOs, foreign Embassies and general media. The ultimate goal is to promote the autonomy of these committees to act in their own best interests and significant progress has been made in achieving this. Today two of the processes closed down due to mine closure.
Prior to winding down the process, these two committees achieved a complete transfer of knowledge and responsibility to the local university partner. For the other two, Avanzar only provides minimal support, oversight, and logistical support. The goal is transfer the responsibility and capacity to the local community and university partner to ensure the long-term sustainability of the program.