March 22 is World Water Day, created by the UN to raise awareness around the importance of water, and how the lack or abundance of it affects people’s lives around the globe. As the Galapagos Islands is a string of tiny islands in the Pacific 1000 miles from the nearest land mass, water is a very important element to both the wildlife and human inhabitants. It is essential for transport, farming crops and livestock and is drinking water for the 30,000+ inhabitants across the Archipelago. Galapagos residents must work towards using water in a sustainable way, as the abundance of water varies greatly from exceptionally rainy years when El Nino hits, to years of severe drought in La Nina years.
Being a tiny archipelago is the world’s biggest ocean, it is no surprise that saltwater surrounds the Galapagos Islands. The ocean was the mode of transportation used to colonise the Islands, and the reason as to why most animal life can exist on the still-active volcanoes. The meeting of the three powerful ocean currents; the south equatorial current (often know as the Cromwell current), the cold Humboldt Current, and the warm Panama current bring nutrients to the volcanic Archipelago, but these currents can be strongly affected by climate change.
Ocean plastic pollution is a growing global problem, and Galapagos sadly hasn’t escaped. One of the main problems is that plastics can be mistaken as food by wildlife and ingested, or caught around the animal detrimentally affecting them. Microplastics less than 1mm long have been recorded within individual cells of plankton, the smallest known organisms. Entering the food chain at the lowest level is an indicator of how damaging plastics are to wildlife and that steps must be taken immediately to secure a positive future for our oceans. GCT are starting to work with partners on projects to reduce plastic consumption across the Islands.
Freshwater can also be a large a problem in Galapagos. The lack of rainwater on some islands means there are frequent droughts. Floreana Island, for example, has no groundwater supplies such as wells or springs, so the entire population of 120 residents collect all of their water from rainwater for daily use, including the farming of livestock and growing vegetables.
In fact, the majority of freshwater resources on the Islands consist of collected rainwater and the garua mist, a thick mist that dominates the highlands of all of the islands during the cool season. As the population grows, water consumption increases, creating a strain on resources. The most populated island, Santa Cruz, has very poor underground water quality on its coast due to contamination from pollution and saltwater. The growing severity of climate change, specifically global warming and the weather phenomenon known as El Nino increases this of the lack of water.
World Water Day aims to raise awareness of the plight of the oceans due to human activity such as overfishing, global warming and pollution. Both fresh and saltwater are adversely affected by many different types of human activities, and we must work to protect and the ecosystems and wildlife for future generations. Water is the very basis of life, and the issue of water pollution is global.
If you would like to learn more about the endangered marine life of Galapagos or the sustainable practices and conservation efforts of GCT, click here.
If you would like to donate towards our projects, please click here.
Written by Jennifer Vidler – Communications and Membership Assistant