This grant supports the University's Center for Environment, Economy and Society (CEES) to develop a water management program in Miches, Dominican Republic that can be replicable in other resource-poor communities and to assist in the design and establishment of community-based water management boards. This project links technical water assessment with development of local capacity and local management of water resources. The University began working with local communities in Miches to improve broader access to water and to improve its quality in 2006. Miches has a population of 22,000 and is one of the poorest communities in the second poorest province in the Dominican Republic. It has no sewage system, water purification plant, plan for solid waste treatment, and oftentimes, no access to water. Additionally, recent government agreements with investors to allow tourism development in the area might promise economic development benefits, but will place significant demands on the water supply, produce additional waste and further strain a fragile hydrological system.
The initiative goes beyond providing pathogen free drinking water to include water resource management across the entire basin, encompassing upland deforestation, erosion control, animal husbandry, farming practices, and sewage and solid waste disposal. The Ridge to Reef concept presupposes that improvements to water quality in the upper reaches of a water basin will lessen negative impacts in the shared surface water, groundwater and marine systems downhill. The people living in the Miches Basin watershed cannot solve the crisis of dying fisheries without addressing upstream dairy and crop farming practices. Farmers' indiscriminate use of unregulated plant fertilizers or pesticides contribute to fish die-off episodes and, because much of central Miches relies on fish for its income, this has exacerbated poverty in the region.