Community water monitoring is a growing movement in the Great Lakes and across Canada. Water Rangers, which equips communities with the tools required to actively monitor and manage their waters, is partnering with Great Lakes DataStream through a new hub-to-hub connection. Through this connection, anyone in the Water Rangers network can share data on Great Lakes DataStream, an open access hub for sharing water data set to be released this fall.
“This is an exciting time to join forces,” said Kat Kavanagh, executive director of Water Rangers. “People are passionate about keeping their local waters healthy and community water monitoring is a great way to do this, but it can’t end there. We need to think through what happens with this data.”
That’s where DataStream comes in. “Diverse community monitoring organizations are dispersed across regions,” said Carolyn DuBois, executive director of DataStream. “This is powerful, allowing us to have a collective finger on the pulse of watersheds, where local people are best placed to see and respond to changes.”
However, these strengths of community monitoring also present challenges. Pulling together a mosaic of community datasets to tackle water quality problems on a regional scale is difficult. The new collaboration between DataStream and Water Rangers addresses this.
“Water Rangers groups are out there monitoring in order to answer local questions, fill data gaps, and feed into larger studies on freshwater health,” explained Kavanagh. “The ability to publish their data on the new Great Lakes DataStream platform will be a game changer, increasing the visibility and impact of community monitoring efforts.”
The Canadian Freshwater Alliance is among those benefiting from the collaboration. “It’s been an exciting year for our Lake Erie Guardians program,” said Raj Gill, the Great Lakes program director at the Canadian Freshwater Alliance. “Working with Water Rangers, 50 volunteers have been out water testing in the Lake Erie watershed. Having their results on Great Lakes DataStream allows them to get a fuller picture of what’s happening within the Lake Erie watershed and also start seeing how this compares to the other regions in the Great Lakes.”
This data sharing is essential because some areas lack basic monitoring data in the Great Lakes Basin, even though it is one of the most populated areas in Canada. “We’re excited about what collaborations like this can achieve,” says DuBois. “The key with water monitoring efforts is to ensure that the data are well managed and that tools like ours are connecting wherever possible to serve the community.”