Using maps to tell the story of ClearWater’s work in Ecuador

author: Gregor MacLennan
date: 2014-03-26
title: Using maps to tell the story of ClearWater’s work in Ecuador
categories: – blog

The Dd team is excited to announce the launch of a site we’ve been working on for months: An interactive map-based platform that tells the inspiring story of the ClearWater Project, an indigenous-led effort in Ecuador’s northern Amazon region to bring clean water to thousands of people suffering from water contaminated by oil drilling. Check it out at

To highlight ClearWater’s innovative approach to increasing access to clean water in contaminated areas, we collaborated to build an equally innovative map that animates the stories of the communities where ClearWater works. The ClearWater map shifts the usual way in which online readers view maps. Stories are connected along a narrative arc that guides the user through the communities and the featured stories. The website uses cutting edge web technologies to push to the limits what is possible in online mapping.

ClearWater isn’t just bringing clean water catchment systems to communities in need. They are taking a holistic approach to supporting community development, building local capacity both in water engineering as well as technical skills like taking GPS and photos of contaminated areas, and training young people in new media skills to report from their communities. This means that the website can be updated by local staff in the field – every time a new rain water catchment system is built, they take a photo and GPS reading of the location. As soon as they enter these into a Google Spreadsheet, the map is updated in real time.


The ClearWater map is an offshoot our Remote Access program, funded in part by a Knight News Challenge grant. It is one of several tools we are developing to enable remote communities to gather, document, systematize, manage and publish information about environmental and human rights issues. Working with a partner doing as important work as ClearWater inspired us to think outside the usual boundaries of how maps are used in digital storytelling. Stay tuned in the coming months for more technical posts about how we made the map, and our plans to turn it into a framework that can allow other groups with place-based stories to create their own interactive animated maps.

Check out the map, and read our official press release:

Press Release: Innovative Animated Map Highlights Clean Water Efforts in Ecuadorian Amazon by Digital Democracy