March 18, 2015 / by John
With a new version of Android released in Google Play, Water Reporter is catching on. Two years ago, our team set out to develop a simple app that made it easy for anyone to notify a Waterkeeper of local water pollution in their area. Now we are witnessing slow and steady adoption that is changing the way engaged citizens and local restoration professionals address pollution in their communities. Merging open source technology with volunteer monitoring programs is allowing critical connections to be made between the local government, volunteers, and non profit environmental organizations.
Small watershed organizations and individuals leveraging Water Reporter are seeing much faster response time from state and local government. Friends of Frederick County volunteer, Pam Abramson, documented bare construction sites along Abrams Creek with improper sediment controls. When she shared her report with Maryland Department of the Environment, it took a week for the state to investigate, issue a fine, and for the contractors to take corrective action. The app’s personal best for remedial response time consisted of a more recent case where a citizen documented septic wastewater directly discharging into a storm drain. By mapping and alerting the Anacostia Riverkeeper and county, the issue was solved in under 24 hours!
Our role in this project is to provide the technical support needed to ensure open environmental data can be used to inform smarter restoration decision making. In the upcoming months, our team plans to overhaul WaterReporter.org so that active member organizaitons like Friends of Frederick County and Waterkeeper Alliance can field, solve, and document issues generated by the public in their own watersheds. We believe that in order to truly engage our target demographic of contributors, they must be able to see the full life cycle of the issue raised, from identification to remediation. By creating an open, publically focused network, citizens will be better able to connect with restoration professionals and use their devices to catalyze positive environmental change. In the future we hope Water Reporter will be able to help distribute the many issues facing water quality across a broad network of collaborative organizations and sectors. We’re excited to see the user base grow and even more motivated by the future restoration this application will help accelerate.