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Sep. 14, 2011

Get Your Feet Wet on World Water Monitoring Day!

by Lisa Gardiner

Click to enlarge images

How do you know if water is clean enough to drink? How do you know if it's clean enough to for swimming or safe for animals?

On September 18, 2011 people around the world will be taking a closer look at their local waterways during World Water Monitoring Day. Join in the project and help figure out whether the freshwater near you is clean.

Clean freshwater is an important resource for people. It keeps ecosystems healthy too. The water flowing through a small stream leads into larger rivers and lakes. All that water flows downhill together. It’s all connected in a watershed. Understanding the health of our watersheds is critical to understanding whether people, animals, and plants are getting the clean water they need. Volunteers with the World Water Monitoring Day seek to make measurements of freshwater to identify the health of the world’s watersheds.

Using a test kit, volunteers figure out what’s in their water. They measure the temperature, acidity (pH), clarity (turbidity), and dissolved oxygen (DO) of water and then report the findings online. The test kit costs $13 plus shipping, or you can use your own water monitoring equipment if you’d like. There are kits available at no charge for participants from low and middle-income countries thanks to support of sponsors. Test kit instructions are available in 17 languages.

While World Water Monitoring Day is September 18, you can collect and submit data about water quality anytime until December 31. On the website, you can look at the water quality data sent in by other participants and find stories about the event from around the world. Lesson plans are available for educators doing water monitoring with students too.

In 2010 more than 200,000 people from six continents and 85 countries participated in this international citizen science program. Program coordinators from the Water Environment Foundation and the International Water Association hope that even more people participate this year. They aim to get one million people involved by 2012.

How to participate:

  1. Register online as a volunteer and identify where you will monitor.
  2. Gather the equipment you will need. You can order a test kit online, or use your own.
  3. Take water measurements at your site on September 18 or anytime before December 31.
  4. Enter data online.
About Lisa Gardiner

Dr. Lisa Gardiner is a writer and content creator at Spark: Science Education at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. She likes how citizen science and social media get people involved in science and is a contributing editor at SciStarter.com.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.

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