Water activist Steve Tamar expected just a dozen students to show up to his citizen-science training at Maricao High School in western Puerto Rico this past October. Instead, the sweltering hot auditorium was packed with teenagers looking to help test the island’s water.
“Eventually the whole school got involved one way or another,” Tamar recalls, adding that teachers incorporated the theme of water testing into their curriculum.
Puerto Rico faces a water crisis. Even before Hurricane Maria, the U.S. territory’s potable water situation was bleak. In 2015, the island reportedly had the worst rate of drinking violations of the Clean Water Act of any state or federal territory.
Maria damaged nearly all of the island’s water systems. After the storm in September, communities took water from anywhere they could find it, drinking from untested springs and sticking PVC pipes on the sides of mountains, with little regard for contamination levels. While Maricao High School had water again by Tamar’s visit, the majority of its students were still without running water at home.
Tamar is a member of the Blue Water Task Force, a program run by the Surfrider Founda... Read more