Cuenca’s water quality has again been rated the best in Ecuador according to the National Institute of Statistics and Census (INEC). The quality was rated 4.63 on INEC’s five point scale based on samples taken in June 2012 and subsequent analysis.
Cuenca’s high ranking is one of several recent recognitions of the city’s water quality. In 2009, an international association of water engineers rated the city’s drinking water the best in Latin America, reporting that it was better than 90% of municipal water in the U.S.
Carlos Julio Jaramillo, water quality manager for ETAPA, the public utility that supplies Cuenca’s drinking water, said the results were expected. “We have maintained very high standards for many years and are proud of our record,” he said. “Unlike the case in many other cities, we rarely need to issue public orders to boíl water before drinking.”
The INEC report noted that 9.5% of Cuenca households use bottled water while the national average is 30.21%. The highest use of bottled water by housesholds is in Machala, with a rate of 69.5%.
Jaramillo says that Cuenca is fortunate because of the quality of its watershed on the west side of the city. Much of the city’s water comes from the Cajas National Park where pollution levels are extremely low.
In addition to water quality, the INEC study also judged conservation efforts.
City begins demolishing ‘illegal’ structures
The city of Cuenca has begun the process of demolishing 158 structures that violate land use laws.
The majority of the structures, some of which are occupied homes, are built in river flood plains, according to the city’s urban development office. The first house to be torn down was was on the Yanuncay River, just off Av. 10 de Agosto. Neighbours claim the house was used by drug dealers and users.
The city says that the most of the houses are built on public land set aside as park or buffer areas near the city’s rivers. In many cases, a city urban development office spokesman says, the structures pollute rivers when they are flooded. “There is a public health issue involved,” said the spokesman.
In some cases, police have been called to physically evict residents from the illigal structures before heavy equipment moves in for demolition work.
Photo caption: A city crew takes down an "illegal" house near Rio Yanuncay.