Attempts to monitor the quality of groundwater resources in most regions of the world reveal huge data gaps. Citizen Science, the collection and analysis of data by members of the public as part of collaborative efforts with scientists, is an innovative approach to the generation and monitoring of groundwater quality data. However, several attributes of citizens and the conceptualization of Citizen Science activities can affect the success, including knowledge, technical capacity and awareness of environmental issues of citizens, incentive structures for participation, and the weight given to empowerment of local stakeholders versus capturing data for the main purpose of science. The variation of these attributes across different regions calls for standardized and regionally contextualized Citizen Science approaches. Graham & Taylor (2018) suggest that with appropriate training, facilitation and support, most of the inhibiting factors can be overcome even in resource-constrained environments such as South Africa.
Examples of Citizen Science approaches in gathering groundwater quality data are growing but still scarce. The advantage is that a small subset of easily measurable water quality indicators (conductivity, temperature, turbidity) can serve as a starting point, and the motivation due to the tangible effects of water quality deterioration on the health and wellbeing of environments and citizens could help spark the interest of scientists and citizens to jointly implement Citizen Science. However, the need for proper sampling of groundwater bodies and water wells pose extra challenge in using Citizen Science for groundwater quality monitoring. The use of generally available mobile phone technology to collect and share data among scientists and citizens makes it attractive in most contexts.
The vast majority of Citizen Science based groundwater quality data gathering is currently conducted in North America and Europe. A growing number of cases of Citizen Science based monitoring of groundwater quality have been deployed elsewhere, showing that data quality was similar to the quality achievable through monitoring by scientists. Notably, in developing nations, youth groups are becoming actively engaged in Citizen Science.
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