Belize has an intricate coastal zone that consists of coastal plains, coastal lagoons, estuaries, numerous coral islands, the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere and three outstanding atolls (Turneffe, Glover’s and Lighthouse).
Since 1987, a network of coastal and marine protected areas has been established to preserve the biodiversity of the coastal zone and to ensure sustainable use of the coastal resources. Schematically, it would appear as though the protected areas are in isolation of each other. The reality is that the protected areas are interconnected to the mainland via water and the atmosphere. The biological resources that the protected areas are expected to preserve are highly vulnerable to land-based sources of pollution. The quantity and quality of water entering the coastal zone are critical to the integrity and longevity of the ecosystems upon which we are dependent.
The Water Quality Programme was established in September 1992 under the Coastal Zone Management Project. The programme aims at collecting baseline water quality data for critical areas of the coastal zone. Considering that the value of the coastal zone is currently threatened by land based sources of pollution, the water quality monitoring programme has become necessary to detect pollutants and departures from acceptable water quality norms.
The objectives of the Water Quality Programme are:
- To establish the natural chemical, biological and physical characteristics of the water bodies in the coastal zone of Belize, and to inform decision-making and national policies that promotes sustainable development and viable coastal activities in these bodies while protecting their natural integrity.
To accomplish these objectives, 75 water quality stations are strategically designated in the coastal zone of Belize. The stations are monitored once per month for basic physical and physicochemical parameters.
Variables monitored in the field include:
- Dissolved Oxygen
Water samples collected in the field are analyzed at the CZMAI Laboratory for:
- Chlorophyll a
Following each monitoring survey, the water quality data corresponding to each monitoring station is uploaded into the CZMAI Water Quality Database. This data is used to generate reports about the coastal water quality.
- Ariola, E. (2003) Characterization Of A Tropical Estuarine System: The Placencia Lagoon. Report prepared under the Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute.
- Ariola, E. (2001) Caye Chapel Water Quality Monitoring Program. In: CZMAI (2003) State of the Coast Report 2001-2002 Belize. 67pp.
- Ariola, E. (2000) The Biophysical Impacts of Hurricane Keith on the Coastal Areas of Belize. In CZMAI (2001) State of the Coast Report 2000 (Belize). 61pp.
- Ariola, E. (1999) Coastal Water Quality. In: CZMAI (2000) State of the Coast Report Belize. 76pp.
Personnel of the Water Quality Monitoring Programme collaborate closely with other agencies involved with water quality monitoring such as the Public Health Bureau, Department of the Environment, the Environmental & Social Technical Assistance Project (ESTAP) and Watershed Reef Interconnectivity Scientific Study Project (WRIScS). This collaboration helps in streamlining the functions of the various agencies, avoiding duplication of efforts, enhancing data sharing, and updating water quality information nationally and internationally.