You Don’t Need a PhD to Improve Water Quality in Your Area

This re-post is in support of Blog Action Day 2010: Water.

Soon-to-be-released Mobile App
Lets Anyone Contribute Valuable Data

Many would agree that clean drinking water is one of our most precious resources. But what many don’t realize is that we walk over and drive passed our drinking water everyday, making valuable observations about the water’s condition as we do so.

The problem is that the folks with the authority to screen or take action to improve the health of our water can’t harness our precious observations, and there are many more of “us” than there are of “them.” In many cases the organizations charged with monitoring local water conditions are over-extended and in many areas are unable to physically monitor creeks and streams on their own due to sheer volume.

What if citizens could contribute to the health of their water supply – without PhDs, chemistry kits and a lot of time?

IBM Research is exploring a simple new form of data collection that could significantly help local water boards collect and analyze critical data about water. A form of crowdsourcing called Citizen Science, people passing by a creek or stream can snap a photo with their smart phone, answer a few simple questions about the condition of the water and instantly send it off to their local water authority.

Whether or not there is any water in a creek, if the water is free-flowing and if there is any trash in the water all represent critical data that citizen scientists could quickly collect during a hike, jog or bikeride, and greatly help their local water board make smarter decisions that effect us all.

In the city of San Jose, California where IBM Research – Almaden is based, there are more than 700 miles of creeks – far too much for one agency to effectively monitor -- prompting IBM Research to team up with the California State Water Resources Control Board and the City of San Jose Environmental Services to implement this application later this month.

Sign up to be notified when the app is available at The application is not specific to California, so use it in your local area and get your official water board on board with the power of citizen science.

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