Sergio Ruiz-Cordova is the Data Coordinator of Alabama Water Watch and a 2019 recipient of the Spirit of Sustainability Award. This award was created to honor Auburn University students, faculty, staff, and alumni who are making significant contributions toward sustainability on campus or in the community. Having dedicated his entire career to researching sustainable solutions in water quality and quantity, Sergio meets and exceeds these qualifications.
Growing up in Guatemala, Sergio realized the importance of living sustainably from a young age. In a home without electricity or running water, Sergio and his family relied on the local river for basic needs like washing and cooking. Because of the country’s seasonal droughts, rain was not always a reliable water source. “My mother loved her plants,” Sergio says, “So during the dry season we would have to use the river to water them.” The lessons he learned from living with what he had have stuck with Sergio to this day and are a source of the inspiration that led him to pursue a career in sustainability.
It was while Sergio was living in Georgia in 1993 that he first heard of Dr. Bill Deutsch, the founder of Alabama Water Watch (AWW). Several friends of Sergio’s studying aquaculture in Guatemala had come to Auburn to participate in one of Deutsch’s Aquaculture Training Programs. It was one of these friends who later encouraged Sergio to reach out to Deutsch, which he did just months after he was funded to start the AWW Program. The two hit it off immediately, and Sergio has been dedicated to the Program ever since.
Sergio’s belief that we can empower citizens by providing them with access to knowledge, awareness, and skills that can bring about positive change in local and global water systems and communities, has driven him to support these programs for over 25 years. He is known for his technical prowess and was an integral part in the creation of AWW’s online database. This database grants public access to 93,000 data records that have worked toward securing protections for Alabama’s waterbodies as well as providing a source for information for Alabama’s citizens.
Sergio has also been instrumental in establishing several other Water Watch Programs throughout the U.S. as well as in other countries with Global Water Watch (GWW). Because of his background in Spanish, his work with GWW began in Ecuador in 1994, where he taught and worked alongside the Quechuan people to further their water health education. Since then, Sergio has helped implement GWW Programs in the states of Washington and Mississippi as well as a program in Mexico, which now has water monitors in half of its states.
In his down-time, Sergio enjoys engaging in volunteer monitoring throughout the Auburn area. Over the years, he has personally submitted over 2,400 water quality data records for the AWW Program! He also practices sustainability on a more personal level in which he maintains an organic garden, keeps chickens, and aims to run a marathon in all 50 states.
Sergio’s impacts on sustainability are obvious. His lifelong commitment to the health and security of waterbodies has been an inspiration to those around him as well as to other volunteer water monitoring programs around the world. His tireless efforts will continue to impact the Water Watch community for generations, which only furthers his relationship with sustainability.