Attempts to monitor the quality of freshwater resources on a global scale have unveiled huge data gaps (UN Water 2018). To help address these gaps, practitioners are increasingly calling for citizens to take an active role in the process and complement the use of other sources such as remote sensing. However, the participation of citizens in water quality monitoring is also a controversial issue. Challenges include, for example, a potential lack of appropriate know-how and skills in monitoring, among others.
This project aims to define the factors that enable and impede effective citizen science activities in the field of water quality monitoring. The project will analyse the effect of certain design principles (e.g., funding mechanisms, types of citizens, types of water, geographical factors, etc.) on the effectiveness (e.g., quantity and quality of data, social benefits, sustainability of projects) of projects in monitoring surface waters and groundwater resources. Based on a review of literature from the fields of citizen science and water quality monitoring, and water and environmental management more generally, this project compiles potential influencing factors of citizen science activities and criteria for evaluating the effects of such activities. From an empirical point of view, the project will (i) compile a list of citizen science projects in water quality monitoring and (ii) conduct a survey amongst representatives of such projects to better understand factors that foster and hinder the success of citizen science in water quality monitoring along criteria such as water quality indicators and human development.
The results of this research will help scholars, practitioners, and entities better design citizen science activities in water quality monitoring. This will in turn advance monitoring and improvements of water resources, ultimately facilitating the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.