FreshWater Watch makes a splash around the world
FreshWater Watch – Earthwatch’s pioneering programme to protect and study fresh water quality around the globe – is celebrating its second successful year of scientific research and employee engagement.
Water is essential to all human activity and a fundamental driver of all socio-economic growth but, as a resource, it is under strain from population growth, development and climate change. FreshWater Watch was designed to respond to this growing challenge, delivering freshwater research and education to help inform and transform water management.
“Corporate engagement is a critical element of our freshwater research model, and the mutual benefits are manifold,” said Professor Steven Loiselle, Senior Research Manager for Global Freshwater Research at Earthwatch.
“While our scientists and research partners get the contribution and collaboration of a legion of trained citizen scientists , companies that we work with gain a more informed and impassioned workforce, eager to have a real impact on sustainable operations and taking a leadership role in their community.”
The employees themselves have also reported great personal and professional development from FreshWater Watch. Our work with the HSBC Water Programme aims to engage 7500 HSBC employees in freshwater data collection by 2016 through Citizen Science Leader (CSL) training days.
In a recent survey of CSLs across Europe and North America, all the respondents said that the programme had increased their understanding of freshwater issues. Ninety-five per cent said they had reduced their own water footprints as a result of the programme, while about half reported that the programme had made them feel even more committed to HSBC.
CSL Cherine Hakim from Corporate Sustainability at HSBC Egypt, said she had always been keen to know more about global and local fresh water challenges and opportunities.
“One slide in the presentation showed the figure for available fresh water in the world and how it’s just a tiny drop, less than three per cent of all water on the planet, and another showed the effect the desalination process has on marine life and the climate. These facts really resonated with me,” she said.
“I also learnt how we, as citizen scientists, can contribute to the research,” Cherine added.
FreshWater Watch has launched in 24 cities around the world – with Rio de Janeiro set to be the 25th in 2014 – and recruited 1,700 Citizen Science Leaders. CSLs have uploaded more than 1600 data sets online to freshwaterwatch.thewaterhub.org.
These Citizen Scientist Leaders join a one-day course, taking part in outdoor data-collection activities combined with thought-provoking classroom learning and discussion. They are equipped with the knowledge they need to monitor water bodies near their own homes.
CSLs collect scientific data, including observations, chemical testing of nutrients, and a ‘cloudiness’ (turbidity) test. The research aims to determine what are the key drivers of water quality in urban areas. The data will be set into a wider geographical context with climate, land use, population, hydrological, socio-economic, water management and governance data.
The programme looks forward to welcoming Shell for 2014, who will take part in two teams in London with up to 20 staff members on each team, as part of the Shell Project Better World initiative. There are plans to expand on this, pending successful pilots.
Follow updates from the initiative on Twitter @FreshWaterWatch and follow the programme hashtags: #freshwaterwatch and #wateraction.