Although water quality has improved a little bit in recent decades, most waters still do not meet the legal requirements. Therefore, in many places the biodiversity of aquatic animals is not doing well.
A snapshot of the project
The overall goal of this project is to empower volunteers in the Netherlands to control the water quality of water bodies. The project started with the idea that it would be amazing if there was a place where one can see the quality of our waters on a map, especially for secondary school children that already performed this kind of inventories during classes. Waterdiertjes.nl is a project that allows volunteers to monitor the water quality in their local bodies of water, such as, streams, garden ponds, rivers and lakes. To check the water quality, the citizens sample the waterbodies using nets. The aquatic animals caught with the nets are placed into shallow containers with some water and identified and counted.
The species and their numbers are entered into the Waterdiertjes.nl WebApp, along with the type of waterbody (e.g., stream, garden pond, lake, etc.). The WebApp then gives information on the quality of the water, with a rating between 1 and 10. This allows the volunteers to check the water quality around them. Presenting all scores on a map is very insightful. Furthermore, the data collected by the volunteers is used to yearly report on the water quality across the Netherlands and can show changes in quality over time.
The results of the project
On average, around 650 volunteers contributed yearly with roughly 750 samples in total. Contributions were made by individuals, NGO’s, secondary schools and universities. Not only for educational purposes is the web application used, but in a few cases also in the professional environment of a consultancy agency. Although, the number of samples provided by volunteers is lower than the 1000 samples yearly taken by professional, it is still a considerable large contribution. In 2022, a comparison of the monitoring by volunteers and professionals has been published in the scientific journal PLOS-ONE. Based on the analyses performed, some smaller adaptations in the web application will be made. However, the researchers experienced that it is still very difficult to have data collected by volunteers be published in regular scientific journals (journals not directed towards citizen science).
A webinar held in 2022 with people from both the communication and ecology department from the water authorities resulted in financial support for the coming years of this citizen science initiative. With this support the continuation is guaranteed. This reflects the importance of involving volunteers in professional water quality issues as is also suggested in the European Water Framework Directive.