Recent Graduates Undertake Water Conservation Research in the Galapagos Islands

Recent Graduates Undertake Water Conservation Research in the Galapagos Islands

Alumnae in the Galapagos

Tania Arana '19 and Natalie Intemann '19 conducted research in the Galapagos.

Tania Arana '19 and Natalie Intemann '19 collaborated with associate professor of economics William Vasquez Mazariegos, PhD, on a project titled “Paradise at Risk: Willingness to Pay for Improved Water Services of a Galapagos Island."

This project gave me more purpose... Water is something all humans need to live, and if I can do something about it, I’m all-in.

— Tania Arana '19

Recent graduates Natalie Intemann '19 and Tania Arana '19 could not have imagined that their mutual interests would unite them to pursue an independent study project that culminated with a trip to Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos last semester. Having completed their almost two-year research assignment, titled “Paradise at Risk: Willingness to Pay for Improved Water Services of a Galapagos Island,” the alumnae presented their findings at Fairfield’s annual Innovative Research Symposium this past April.

An archipelago off the coast of Ecuador, the Galapagos are known for biodiversity and for being the site of the Charles Darwin Research Station. Due to an increase in water usage from national and foreign tourists over the years, access to clean water is a critical issue – for visitors as well as permanent residents. Infrastructure and sanitation quality and service are lacking, which threatens the health of Galapagos inhabitants. Upon taking an economics course with Associate Professor William Vasquez Mazariegos, PhD, Intemann started to connect the dots between her knowledge of the Galapagos and Dr. Vasquez Mazariegos’ discussion around water economics.

“After traveling to the Galapagos in 2016, I discovered that Galapagos citizens suffer from poor water quality and limited access to water,” said Intemann. She explained that water services only operate for a few hours a day, and only produce poor quality water. Citizens tend to rely on bottled water or water shipments from the mainland as their main sources of safe drinking water. “I wanted to learn more about water usage in the Galapagos, and what could be done to improve it,” she added.

The project was also an opportunity for Intemann to leverage her study of economics, international studies, and environmental studies.

Arana, a finance major and native of Ecuador, joined Intemann to pursue the study. The two collaborated with Dr. Vasquez Mazariegos to develop a survey to poll tourists about their water usage. The purpose of the survey was to provide data to address issues of water quality, water access, and sanitation services on the Islands, and to specifically determine if tourists might be willing to pay a fee to fund clean water.

“This project was based on my experience studying the economics of water issues in Brazil, El Salvador, Ghana, Guatemala, Mexico, and Nicaragua,” said Dr. Vasquez Mazariegos. “While tourism may improve the well-being of local populations, it may also influence local environmental resources and public services. Thus, tourists could also contribute to improving water services in areas they visit. This is why Natalie and Tania surveyed tourists.”

Last March, Intemann and Arana surveyed tourists on Santa Cruz Island during a trip to the Galapagos. Survey questions were devised to determine tourists’ willingness to finance improved water and sanitation services in order to enhance the Island's current infrastructure, and to prevent future damage. Analysis of the data showed that tourists are willing to pay, on average, $36 to finance a water improvement project.

With these findings, Dr. Vasquez Mazariegos is in contact with colleagues in the U.S. and in Ecuador to extend the research with a follow-up study that will investigate local household preferences for desalinated water as a way to provide enough clean water for locals and tourists. The group will develop a second survey with the intention for more Fairfield students to carry on the project.

“This project gave me more purpose,” said Arana. “Water is something all humans need to live, and if I can do something about it, I’m all-in.”

Tags:  Dolan School,  Top Stories


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