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Earthwatch calls for WaterBlitz volunteers to take part in water pollution survey across Europe

Earthwatch Europe is appealing to members of the public across the Thames Valley and European capitals Luxembourg, Paris and Dublin to help collect water samples in their local area during a four-day WaterBlitz. The WaterBlitz runs this autumn from Friday 20 September to Monday 23 September 2019 (registration details below).

Rivers, streams, lakes and ponds provide numerous important benefits to cities across the globe, including drinking water, wildlife habitat, navigation, tourism and recreation. These waterbodies face increasing threats from development, as well as from human waste pollution, industrial pollution, and fertilisers applied to fields, all of which can contribute to increased levels of nutrients such as nitrates and phosphates in watercourses. While these nutrients are found naturally in the environment, excess levels can cause the rapid growth of certain plants and algae, forcing a shift in the delicate balance of the ecosystem. This results in fewer species being present in the waterbody, and can lead to the death of fish – as the algae die off and decompose they consume oxygen, lowering the levels of dissolved oxygen in the water upon which the fish rely. In addition, some algal ‘blooms’ are a human health hazard.

Volunteers taking part in a WaterBlitz, led twice a year in the Thames Valley by Earthwatch and funded by Thames Water, help provide an overview of local water quality by surveying nutrient levels which act as indicators of pollution. The survey is easy to do and the records collected help direct conservation action where it is needed most.

Dr Isabel Bishop, Research Manager at Earthwatch Europe, explains: “Over the last few years, the support of local people in the WaterBlitzes has led to the collection of over 2,500 water quality samples from across the Thames Valley – far more than any researcher could gather alone. The data has helped us pinpoint potential sources of pollution. Armed with this information, we can make more informed recommendations for the improved management of affected waterbodies, and have already seen positive changes across several sites. We hope that people will take part in this European WaterBlitz in their city and help contribute to vital research on the state of water in Europe.”

This autumn marks the first time that the WaterBlitz will occur in several European countries over the same weekend. Luxembourg, Dublin and Paris have all seen efforts to reverse negative trends in pollution, yet gaps still remain regarding the effectiveness of conservation actions and the long-term management of vital aquatic environments. The expansion of Earthwatch’s water monitoring survey into Europe has been made possible thanks to the charity’s new partnership with Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), which aims to connect local communities and engage them in conserving and restoring urban waterbodies across the continent. Working with prominent scientists from the University of Luxembourg, Dublin City University, and Ecole des Ponts ParisTech, Earthwatch will run the public WaterBlitz across several countries at the same time, ensuring the data collected is directly comparable.

Dr Bishop adds: “We are delighted to be working with RBC. It is very exciting to roll out the WaterBlitz across the continent to build a more detailed picture of water quality in Europe. With more data and knowledge comes more informed – and therefore more effective – conservation action.”

In addition to encouraging local residents from across the three European cities to participate in the WaterBlitz, the new partnership will see RBC employees trained as ‘citizen scientists’ by local researchers and Earthwatch scientists, equipping them with the research skills to help collect important data on water quality as part of the WaterBlitz and beyond.

Anouschka Elliott, Global Head of Marketing & Brand, RBC Investor & Treasury Services, has said “RBC is delighted to continue our partnership with Earthwatch in Luxembourg, Paris and Dublin. Through our partnership RBC employees are enabled to become citizen scientists, taking part in local research and educational initiatives to improve water quality locally, demonstrating RBC’s ongoing commitment to the environment”

Register online for your free water test kit. The kit includes instructions on how to collect samples, test them for specific nutrients, and submit results online.

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