We offer two optional field trips free of charge following the conference on the 24th of November, 2023. The trips offer (1) hands-on learning experiences related to a unique ecosystem that is a key contributor to water security for a large population in Latin America (Cajas National Park) and (2) access to a hydropower station with unique insights into one component of the water-energy-food nexus promoting a holistic understanding of complex issues. Both trips will depart from Cuenca (2500 m) and will take us up to 4150 m (Quinuas) and 3600 m (Machángara) respectively.  In the Páramo we can expect rainfall any day of the year.  November is the beginning of the wet season so it is important to wear waterproof clothes. Temperature is usually low, around 6 degree Celsius, and solar radiation can be high. 

Please note: The seats are limited. If you would like to participate in one of the two field trips, please indicate so during your conference registration. Allocation is based on the order of applications received and will be confirmed in a separate e-mail.

The Cajas National Park is located in the upper catchment of the Tomebamba river, approximately 35 km upstream from the city Cuenca. It has an average temperature of 6 degree Celsius. Despite reaching 4400 m, its mountain peaks are snowless. Downstream the Cajas Park multiple land use activities like cattle grazing or touristic stops, which creates disputes for the management of resources, can be found. In this area, the University of Cuenca has, together with ETAPA, a detailed ecohydrological observatory conformed of several observation sites for meteorological, hydrological and water quality monitoring. The visit will provide insights in the natural ecosystem and the research infrastructure.

09:00 Departure from Campus Balzay
09:30 Arrival to mountain pass “Tres Cruces” (4100 m)

Explanation about the importance of the national park and the paramo ecosystem. Walk around. People in good condition can climb to the observatory (around 500 steps)

10:45 Drive to Toreadora Lake (3900 m)
11:00 Visit to the meteorological station and Toreadora Lake
12:00 Drive to “Virgen del Cajas” sanctuary and hydrological observatory (3600 m)
12:15 Visit to hydrological and water quality monitoring stations
13:00 Drive to restaurant
13:15 Lunch
15:00 Return to Cuenca

The Machángara basin has a complex water management system that includes hydropower generation, irrigation systems, and provides drinking water for around 60% of Cuenca. To assure the conservation of the environment, a Watershed Management Council was formed 25 years ago, which constitutes the best example of interinstitutional arrangements in the county.

The hydropower company built 2 reservoirs (around 3600 m. a. s. l.) in the upper part of Machángara, which are key to sustain flow during dry conditions.  In this area, the average temperature records is about 8 degrees Celsius. Machangara’s orographic conditions promote mountain-rivers to be present and ponds to originate along the basin where Páramo vegetation is abundant. On the other hand, in a political/sociological aspect, the national environmental authorities declared the upper area of the watershed as a protected forest in 1985. The main water users, the hydropower company (ElecAustro) and the drinking water company of Cuenca (ETAPA) have carried out plenty of activities in order to train communities on the environmental care. They have given them tools to preserve these ecosystems and provided legal support to legalize their lands. In exchange, local people are committed to protect and to preserve around 70% of their lands in non-intervened conditions.

09:00 Departure from Campus Central
09:30 Arrival to Saymirin hydropower plant

Explanation of the different water uses of the Machángara, the  hydropower system, and the Machángara Watershed Management council

11:00 Drive to Saucay hydropower plant and demonstration farm

Explanation of the strategies for sustainable land use management with the communities of the Machángara basin. Demonstration farm.

12:00 Drive to Chanlud or El Labrado dam
12:30 Visit to the dam
13:30 Return to Cuenca (arrival around 15:00)

Packing List / Recommendations

We recommend you to bring the following equipment when you participant in the field trip:

Strongly recommended:

  •       Hiking boots/shoes.
  •       Water-proof jacket.
  •       Warm and comfortable clothes.
  •       Hat for sun protection.
  •       Sunscreen (even on cloudy days, solar radiation is high).
  •       Water.


  •       Beanie.
  •       Neck gaiter, buff or a scarf.
  •       Extra socks: Needed in case you step on a deep puddle.
  •       Winter gloves.

Picture Credits:

Virgen del Cajas Sanctuary: Ecuventure
Toredora Lake: Edu León/ MITUR
Panoramic view of El Cajas:Mateo Jerves R.
Chanlud dam: Elecaustro S.A.
Agroproduction on Machangara: Elecaustro S.A.
Chanlud dam lake: Nicolas Duran T.