Flowing toward Peace: Upper Lempa Watershed Project Takes Strategic Approach to Water Security


The USAID Upper Lempa Watershed Project strives to improve the health and resilience of the Upper Lempa watershed, directly impacting the well-being and water security of 180,000 people in nine municipalities in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, setting the foundation for water resources management essential to millions of people who depend on the Lempa River and its connected transboundary ecosystems.

The project works through mutually-reinforcing objectives that advance progress toward efficient and equitable water resources management. Some activities to date include.

Supporting municipal water security plans 

Municipal water security plans serve several important functions. They help identify current and future issues around water resources, recommend actions and interventions, as well as lay out how those resources will be managed and governed.  

The process for developing these plans: 

  • Phase 1 focuses on generating interest among municipal authorities and local actors to ensure ownership of the process. 
  • Phase 2 involves forming alliances, identifying common objectives and priorities, and gaining the commitment of key actors to achieving water security. 
  • Phase 3 emphasizes plan development through participatory workshops, allowing local citizens to contribute knowledge and perspectives. 
  • Phases 4 and 5 focus on promoting the water security plan, collecting inputs, and validating the document to ensure official acceptance. 

By focusing on collaboration with local governments, USAID’s interventions will resonate more with the immediate needs of communities, fostering a more resilient and sustainable water management system.  

Gathering input from local residents during the planning process.
Photo credit: USAID/Upper Lempa Watershed Project

Strengthening the capacity to improve water quality and increase availability of data for informed decision-making

Deploying ultrasonic buoys to combat algae growth

Excessive growth of microalgae in the Lempa River affects the water's color, taste, and odor. To combat this issue and improve water quality monitoring, the project has partnered with the National Administration of Aqueducts and  Sewers (ANDA) in El Salvador to deploy ultrasonic buoys at the Torogoz Drinking Water Treatment Plant. The buoy network (using solar energy and ultrasound technology) reduces algae contamination and provides real-time data on the quality of water entering the plant. As a result, ANDA can reduce the amount of chemicals used to treat water and manage the plant more efficiently. 

Rubén Alemán, President of ANDA, said, "In addition to controlling algae proliferation, they continuously monitor the water in the Lempa River. The data is reflected directly in real-time in our automated control center. This  modern system will contribute to ensuring the water quality entering our drinking water treatment plant and improving the surveillance and early warning system for the Upper Lempa Watershed." 

New ultrasonic buoys on the Lempa River reduce algae and monitor water quality.
Photo credit: USAID/Upper Lempa Watershed Project

Constructing hydrometric monitoring stations to improve monitoring

Information on water quality and quantity flowing through the Lempa River is crucial for monitoring quality of drinking water, anticipating and managing risks from floods and droughts, improving planning around hydroelectric power generation, and managing impacts on irrigation and aquatic ecosystem health.

To improve monitoring along the Lempa River, USAID partnered with the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources of El Salvador (MARN-ES) to construct six hydrometric stations, equipped with real-time monitoring technology, in the main tributaries of the Lempa River. These hydrometric stations generate information on  rainfall, water flow, and water quality data such as conductivity, temperature, pH, and dissolved oxygen. 

Hydrometric stations such as this will provide information on rainfall and water quality.
Photo credit: USAID/Upper Lempa Watershed Project

More about the project

The Upper Lempa Watershed Project strives to improve the quality of life for people living near the Lempa River in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras by strengthening the quality, quantity, and reliability of water. The project is being implemented by Winrock International with partners Tetra Tech ARD, Stockholm Environment Institute, and The Center for Water Security and Cooperation, with the support of USAID. These partners have set out to strengthen regional, national, and local institutions, municipalities, and civil societies in connection with water resource management in the Upper Lempa Watershed.

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