Citizen scientists report on water

Climate change is expected to have a significant impact on the availability and quality of water and increase the likelihood of flooding. A European initiative is creating a citizen observatory for water that will allow the public to take part in the management of water resources.

Traditional approaches to monitoring the water cycle, such as through satellite and in situ observations, have two major drawbacks. The first is that the resolution is too low to describe the status of the water cycle; the second is that citizens are at the end of the information chain.

The EU-funded project 'Wesenseit: Citizen observatory of water' (WESENSEIT) will allow citizens to become active stakeholders in information capture, evaluation and communication. It will use environmental data and knowledge from both professionals and local communities to effectively manage water resources.

New sensors and computer models will be developed to extend knowledge of the interactions between the natural environment and human activities. The citizen observatory of water specifically focuses on supporting agencies, such as emergency services and policymakers, to deal with events such as floods and droughts. This will be achieved by the monitoring, modelling and communication components that form the observatory.

Data collection will involve low-cost devices for sensing and transferring water information when automatically monitored or by citizens from their mobile devices. Techniques are also being developed for harnessing citizens' collective intelligence, comprising the experience and knowledge held by individuals and communities. Project partners will also develop descriptive and predictive models and decision-making tools that integrate sensor- and citizen-based data.

Two-way feedback and exchange of environmental information and experiences between citizens and authorities will support decision making and governance within an e-collaboration framework. This will empower citizens and citizens' associations, leading to improved transparency, knowledge management, accountability and responsiveness, and facilitate participation in water management.

The citizen water observatory is being tested and validated in three case studies in Doncaster (United Kingdom), Delft (the Netherlands) and Vicenza (Italy). The case studies cover the entire hydrologic cycle with a major focus on variables responsible for the occurrence of floods and droughts.

WESENSEIT allows citizens to contribute information about water-related phenomena, which can be fed into the governance process. This will enable decision makers to empathise with the public at large and reflect upon their preferences and values. This will create a more equal relationship while dealing with the major challenges of our time, such as climate change and energy use.

last modification: 2015-04-23 10:18:33

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