We have completed three Water Blitzes in April and May 2018, starting in the Thames Valley (United Kingdom), then Sörmland (Sweden) as part of our citizen science observatory in the Ground Truth 2.0 partnership and finally Ravenna (Italy), with more than 750 people taking part in the three Water Blitzes across Europe, collecting more than 400 water quality samples.
During a Water Blitz, volunteers collect as many water quality samples as possible over a short period of time. Water Blitz sampling allows us to better understand water health issues in rivers, ponds, lakes and streams, and volunteers give greater detail to the existing studies and measure hard-to-reach smaller waterbodies. The data is being used by local councils, citizens, environmental agencies and water management companies to identify potential sources of pollution and the effectiveness of previous efforts to improve ecosystem health.
• Data from the Thames, UK revealed that excess nutrients from past activities continues to influence present day conditions, with 20% of rivers and streams sampled shown to have elevated concentrations of nitrate*. Explore more in the Thames region on FreshWater Links.
• In Ravenna, Italy, high levels of phosphate concentrations** were found in canals and wetlands sampled.
• This pilot Water Blitz in Ravenna region raised awareness among local authorities about the potential risks to important fresh water ecosystems in the region, and has helped local water authorities and concerned communities to begin to work together. Explore the Ravenna Water Blitz data map.
• In Sörmland, Sweden, the lakes, rivers and streams sampled are generally in a good ecological status.
• In some areas of Sörmland, used predominantly for agricultural activity, there was an imbalance between nitrates and phosphates. This gives new insights to the causes of algal blooms* in some of the region’s lakes, streams and other water bodies.
• In Sörmland local communities will continue to track the occurrence of algal blooms during summer, and will gather data on the impact of traditional land management practices. Explore the Sörmland Water Blitz data map.
In the United Kingdom, the Thames Water Blitz data is playing a key role in evaluating efforts to tackle the problems that drive pollution and exacerbate its consequences. In the Thames, some local councils and environmental agencies, river trusts, water management companies, and local communities are using an innovative approach to reduce fertiliser use, and improve wastewater treatment, with a ‘catchment-based approach’, making decisions about their river management using local knowledge and expertise.
Watch this space, as our researchers compete more in-depth studies we will release more of our findings.
The next Water Blitz
The Bristol Avon River Trust is organising the next Water Blitz in the U.K. from 23 - 29 of June. Register online to receive a free Water Blitz testing kit.
The big picture
Earthwatch’s work understanding freshwater ecosystems through the use of citizen science, directly contributes to the Sustainable Development Goals set out by the United Nations. Understanding and helping the sound management of freshwater ecosystems directly contributes to Sustainable Development Goal 6. Identifying issues such as the presence of algae which negatively impacts the water quality helps to strengthen the pollution warning systems and risk management contribute to Sustainable Development Goal 3 to ensure healthy lives and promoting well-being. Finally, volunteering in the FreshWater project is indirectly shown to inspire people to more responsible consumption of our precious resources (Sustainable Development Goal 12), and creates the knowledge required to make informed decisions (Sustainable Development Goal 4).
The 20,000 data records on water quality collected by our enthusiastic volunteers have been essential to tackle the challenge of declining health of lakes and rivers. Together with our partners and volunteers we will continue to monitor fresh water bodies around the world, investigate the drivers and causes of declining health, and evaluate the impact of habitat restoration and catchment management practices.
* Excessive nutrients, such as nitrate and phosphates, used in fertilisers or released by poor wastewater management, in a water environment, can lead to the growth of algal blooms, which can be harmful to human health but also deplete oxygen in the water, leading to an overall decline in biodiversity as birds, fish and aquatic plants
** Typical sources of high levels of phosphate are diffuse pollution sources of urban run-off and sewage outlets.
Image credits: Earthwatch/John Hunt