River water quality and quantity are declining globally as a result of land use and population growth. Enhanced river management that includes input from local watershed residents is needed to sustain this resource. As an international framework, integrated water resources management (IWRM) aims to support inclusive governance of water systems. Ecuador is one of the countries that has looked to IWRM as a guide, though little research on water quality is available in the country. Our case study describes both the research process and outcomes of an integrated assessment of water quality and perceptions in the south Ecuador city of Loja, through which flow two rivers: Rio Zamora and Rio Malacatos. Our team sought to take both biophysical and perceptual measures of water quality in these rivers and tributaries and build interdisciplinary research skills among undergraduate and early graduate students in collaboration with faculty researchers from the Universidad Técnica Particular de Loja and the University of Idaho. In this case article, we concentrate on the process and results of the social scientific dimension of this interdisciplinary project, describing how surveys and interviews were used to build our understanding of the connections between the biophysical water quality measures and water quality perceptions of different communities within the watershed. Readers will learn about the possibilities of conducting interdisciplinary, international team projects to answer applied socioenvironmental questions along with challenges that should be anticipated when designing this kind of research.

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