D1.1 Technology survey: Prospective and challenges - Revised version (2018)

5 Participatory / citizen science for water management

5.1 Coupling several data sources

An interesting topic is coupling several data sources, at pan-European scale, from different stakeholders and policy makers (participatory actors in the framework). The design of effective indicators at a continental scale requires both conceptual and spatial aggregation [Niemeijer, 2002]. Specific and local management interventions may require a larger set of detailed indicators to be developed at a higher resolution - the European statistical system (ESS), consisting of Eurostat and the appropriate bodies in member state administrations, ensures that the statistical needs of policy-makers are met. Data are geo-referenced and managed by Eurostat with the geographic information system of the European Commission (GISCO) [Eurostat, 2001]. GISCO geo-referenced databases contain topographic and thematic layers at five different scales. Tools have been developed for standardized cartographic production and for advanced spatial analysis.

For example, several hydrography databases exist for the EU water studies that include rivers and lakes coverage. The catchments have been derived from a hierarchical river network, together with climate data provided for over 5k stations in all EU member states, collected by the monitoring agriculture with remote sensing (MARS) project [Vossen, 1995]. The two main climatic variables are precipitation (average, maximum 24 h rainfall, number of rain days, average snowfall, number of snowfall and snow cover days) and temperature (average, maximum, minimum, absolute monthly maximum and minimum, number of frost days). Other climate attributes include, relative humidity, vapour pressure, atmospheric pressure, bright sunshine, evapotranspiration, wind speed and cloud cover.

Many more such community-based monitoring (CBM) initiatives were developed in the last years. The Waterkeeper Alliance, for example, developed programs (e.g., Riverkeeper, Lakekeeper, Baykeeper, and Coastkeeper) for ecosystem and water quality protection and enhancement, with major pilots in USA, Australia, India, Canada and the Russian Federation. The URI Watershed Watch Program produces quality data from over 200 monitoring sites statewide (and citizens are encouraged to participate as active data readers). Produced and processed in certified laboratories, this information is used by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management for assessing the State’s waters, as well as by municipal governments, associations, consulting firms and residents for more effective management of local resources. Similarly, Florida’s LAKEWATCH program is one of the largest US lake monitoring programs in the nation with over 1800 trained citizens monitoring 600+ lakes, rivers and coastal sites in more than 40 counties. Volunteers take samples to collection sites located in 38 counties.

CBM relationships with universities have also increased; perhaps due to their capacity to provide training, lab facilities, free space, and funding [Savan, 2003. Some examples of CBM initiatives linked with academic institutions include the Alliance for Aquatic Resource Monitoring (ALLARM), housed within the Environmental Studies Department at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania, or the University of Rhode Island Watershed Watch.

Normally the use of water for productive activities is prohibited in the domestic distribution systems in many parts of the globe, but because these activities sustain in some places the rural poor, users withdraw water for unauthorized productive uses or alternatively water designated for irrigation is used to meet their domestic needs [Van der Hoek, 1995], leading to low availability and low quality of water. The use of “potable” water for all activities has become common, and other sources such as rainwater harvesting or grey-water re-use have been largely ignored in much of Latin America, for example [Restrepo, 2005]. One factor that impedes decision making to improve water services in rural areas is the lack and inconsistency of information on water consumption, availability and quality [Roa, 2008]. Without data, users cannot demonstrate causes of contamination and/or over exploitation of the resource, limiting their ability to lobby local authorities for improvements. Knowing water needs, water availability and the way human activities are affecting the resource, permits a diagnostic of overall watershed conditions, and the determination of priority sites for intervention.