there are currently more than 1700 community groups involved
in the national Waterwatch
programme. In 1995, during Water Week, an estimated
20,000 people participated in taking a snapshot of water
quality throughout Australia.
problems come from upstream and are passed on downstream so they can't be solved without catchment cooperation. On
larger river systems, work with monitoring groups from the
whole catchment or drainage area of each creek or river.
some groups, as in Melbourne,
have taken a "top-down" approach, first establishing
a catchment coordinating group and then recruiting small
groups of volunteers along the valley so that the quality
of the river or stream can be compared with land use at
its top, middle and lower ends.
in New South Wales, started from the "bottom-up";
first establishing strong local monitoring groups on different
sections of the waterway and then forming a broader catchment
coordinating group to gain an understanding of pollution
sources upstream and pollution impacts downstream. In New
Zealand, most monitoring groups have started locally.
groups are usually made up of members who live close to
a particular section of a waterway. Local people know their
own area and are best able to identify problems and propose
appropriate solutions. Group members who live close to a
stream or wetland can observe changes that can occur on
a daily basis. They have easier access to remote sites and
can sample more frequently than scientists and government
agencies. They can also respond to unpredictable events.
For example, community monitoring of stormwater runoff in
urban and rural areas has enabled groups to quickly identify
the sources of pollution problems.
More than a thousand schools in Australia participate in Waterwatch monitoring projects. Their involvement has included a nationwide detective game, as well as integrating Waterwatch projects with the curriculum.
Through a team
approach, community members can benefit from the experience
and resources of local councils or agencies concerned with
water issues. Local authorities, in turn, can benefit from
the monitoring work conducted by school or community members.
the water chemistry monitoring equipment is generally sponsored
by a participating local council, government agency, business
or industry. The water quality information gathered by those
same groups is reported back to their local sponsors and
water managers. The reports then form the basis for round
table discussions on how community groups, councils and
agencies can work together to improve things.
Involve a cross-section
of your local community right from the start. Identify all
the water authorities, local councils, industries, businesses
and individuals who are concerned with water quality in
your catchment. In particular, encourage primary and secondary
school teachers and students within walking distance of
the stream to integrate water monitoring into the curriculum
across areas of study such as Environment, Science, Biology,
Chemistry, Computer Studies, Geography and the Arts. Schools
can support community monitoring activities by using their
equipment to sterilise equipment, incubate faecal coliform
samples, and record and report results on computer.
As well as schools,
councils, water authorities and businesses, membership could
usefully include people from:
The involvement of a wide variety of people helps establish the credibility of your group and increases its positive influence.
Once the group
has been formed, give it a name and adopt a logo for identification
on printed material.
Form a technical
advisory committee made up of representatives of local water
managers, members of the scientific community and potential
monitors to advise on aims, methods, equipment, site selection,
training and data interpretation etc.
With this information, the group can then call its first meeting and decide on its primary aims, that is, has the group been formed for the purpose of:
Some groups design their first monitoring efforts around the simple question, "what is this catchment like?". They then set out to answer a second question "Is the water quality of our waterway improving or becoming degraded ?" It is important that everyone in the group agrees on the aim, as this will set the foundation for future activities.
Think about producing an information sheet detailing the group's aim, membership and the area covered. This can be distributed widely to keep the group informed and attract new members and community support.
To clarify your goals, gather representatives of the whole range of catchment interests to work with topographic maps and aerial photos to identify issues. The maps are useful for locating water uses, landuses, and possible pollution sources. The following questions might help:
activities will depend on its aim and size, and its involvement
with the rest of the community. The following activities
are currently being undertaken by established water monitoring
groups and may be suitable for your group.
Learning about waterway habitat and water quality by:
Promoting community awareness and appreciation of local waterways by:
Monitoring local streams, lakes and wetlands by:
Getting involved in action by:
" Dump no waste, Drains to the River"
A catchment group can achieve more than small monitoring groups or individuals working alone. It can support and encourage, share water quality data and equipment, and take responsibility for planning and managing projects. These tasks can be shared among the group members with individuals or small groups sharing responsibilities for:
When water quality information is being collected by community groups in a coordinated way across a whole catchment, both the regional community and government agencies are more likely to use community data for practical decision making and action. As that happens, recognition and support for community water monitoring groups will increase.
Your Regional or District Council or Water Board is a good starting point. Other organisations which might help the group with information, administrative assistance and advice might include government departments, responsible for sewage disposal and drainage, water supply, water quality and water conservation.