FreshWater Watch is Earthwatch’s global research project which aims to involve citizens in a programme to research and learn about fresh water to safeguard the quality and supply of this most precious and vital resource.
Participants have the opportunity to become citizen scientists and take an active role in scientific data gathering and join a global community working together to promote freshwater sustainability.
Why is the quality of fresh water important?
- More people die from poor quality water annually than from all forms of violence, including war.
- As water quality declines in some regions, more than 50 per cent of native freshwater fish species and nearly one third of the world’s amphibians are at risk of extinction.
- 1 litre of petrol spilt can contaminate 1 million litres of fresh water to below World Health Organisation standards for drinking water.
- The greatest single service freshwater ecosystems provide is water purification and the assimilation of wastes, valued at US$ 400 billion worldwide annually.
Why do we need to do FreshWater Watch?
- Eutrophication is the response of an aquatic ecosystem to the excessive addition of nitrates and phosphates. This can lead the growth of harmful algal blooms, increased turbidity and oxygen depletion of the water, fish kills, and an overall decline in biodiversity.
- Before the global increase of industry at the turn of the 18th century, the only sources of nitrogen in fresh water were bacteria, volcanoes and lightning strikes.
- Use of nitrogen fertilisers has increased by 600 per cent in the last 50 years.
- Up to 30 per cent of nitrogen used in agriculture ends up in our fresh water.
- Human activity trebled the amount of phosphorus released to the biosphere between 1960 and 2000, principally from runoff from agriculture and poorly treated domestic wastewater.
- Reduction of excess phosphorus in the soil could take decades leading to long term problems of eutrophication in freshwater and coastal environments.
Development of FreshWater Watch
With support from a strong independent Science Advisory Panel, including senior freshwater biologists, Freshwater Watch aims to mobilize the general public to observe and monitor key indicator species in their local areas and input the data into a central database which can be used by academia, research institutes and governmental agencies as well as NGOs.
The Science Advisory Panel in Hong Kong, China and other Asia Pacific regions includes:
Hong Kong – Prof. Kin-chung HO, The Open University of Hong Kong
Shanghai – Prof. Yuchao ZHANG, Nanjing Institute of Geography and Limnology, Chinese Academy of Sciences
Guangzhou – Prof. Huashou LI, South China Agricultural University
Malaysia – Dr. Kailasam KALITHASAN, Global Environment Centre
Singapore – Dr. Mynampati Kalyan CHAKRAVARTHY, Hydroinformatics Institute
Indonesia – Ir. Hendri SOSIAWAN, Indonesian Agroclimatology and Hydrology Research Institute
Not only is Freshwater important for scientists and decision makers but it also encourages people to interact with nature on their doorsteps and get involved with local issues.
Research Questions: What are the causes of the loss of freshwater quality and why are freshwater ecosystems degrading?
Research Purpose: To better manage and protect the world’s fresh water.
The development and delivery of the Citizen Science Leader programme relies upon strategic partnerships with locally based organisations. Each of these organisations has local research questions, which are dependent upon the local water challenges. Globally we are using consistent methodology, strategy and objectives to create a single, global database.
It is projected that there will be data collected from more than 3,000 locations around the world, most of which have never previously been studied. Scientists anticipate that data will be published in more than 30 scientific publications and make a huge contribution to the protection of water quality and supply.
That is why we will share the findings with policymakers, NGOs and businesses worldwide, so we can play our part in tackling one of the greatest challenges of our time.
How the research can be used
Many geographical databases already exist and the quality and quantity of FreshWater Watch will, in many ways, be the missing piece.
Our data will be set into a wider geographical context with climate, land use, population, hydrological, socio-economic, water management and governance data.
Analysis of the different datasets will be carried out to identify what factors influence water quality the most e.g. is water quality in densely populated urban areas always worse than that in more sparsely populated areas? Is water quality always poorer in places with a particular climate?
Comparisons will be made between different areas within cities, between cities and between different water body types, and on different temporal scales (past, present, future).
If you are interested in learning more about our research, please check out our other publications.
Citizen Science Leaders (CSLs)
The role of a Citizen Science Leader is to uncover the causes of the loss of freshwater quality and ecosystem degradation and be part of a global community providing environmental information on a scale never seen before.
CSLs are the driving force of FreshWater Watch. They take part in a one-day training programme where they will work alongside highly qualified scientists to learn the research procedures used in this programme and find out about critical global and local water issues and how you can take personal action at home, in the workplace and in the wider community.
After the training day CSLs conduct further research to contribute to a huge global database in their own time with friends, colleagues, family and the wider community and:
- Communicate FreshWater Watch to colleagues and encourage them to get involved.
- Demonstrate the activities they have learned and lead colleagues in freshwater research.
- Join with other Citizen Science Leaders, actively contributing to thewaterhub.org online community.
- Be a FreshWater Watch contact point for colleagues.
Benefits of being a Citizen Science Leader
- Achieve a first-hand understanding of freshwater issues and impacts and be part of the team working towards finding a solution to the challenges facing global freshwater quality and supply.
- Learn from experts during your training day and be part of a unique research project collecting data from previously untested water bodies.
- Family involvement – the task is suitable for children to take an active role and it is a great family activity.
- Develop your professional competencies through innovative capabilities enhancement, e.g., leadership opportunities, team building, application of influencing skills, and strengthen presentation skills.
- Expand your personal and professional network – both through the Citizen Science Leader training day and through the online involvement with the waterhub.org community.