Water quality monitoring in India and London will be locally improved thanks to researchers from the University of Warwick, who will partner with NGOs Thames21 and Earth5R to identify and co-develop citizen science methodologies to address both London and Mumbai’s water quality challenges.
The £19,915 grant from the UKRI Citizen Science Exploration Grant is one of 53 projects, worth £1.4m to get funding, and will enable members of the public in India and London to actively contribute to a research and innovation project looking at water quality in their area.
Currently 70% of India’s water is contaminated according to government think-tank report in June 2018. Whilst different in severity and scale the UK also suffers from poor water management and a lack of community responsibility in water stewardship, only 14% of rivers in England are considered to be at Good Ecological Status within the Water Framework Directive. However, this new grant will give both the UK and India community’s the opportunity to share international perspectives on water quality and generate data to inform research and target solutions.
Researchers from the University of Warwick will work with the London NGO Thames21 (who have expertise in delivering environmental pollution management through community citizen science initiatives) and Indian NGO Earth5R to explore existing research into water quality and evaluate how citizen science methods can be complimentary applied to the context of both the UK and India.
The original PATHWAYS project by the School of Engineering at the University of Warwick developed a programme that investigated water quality characteristics paying special attention to the relationship between a number of critical parameters including physical, chemical and biological variables in four flow domains: rivers, lakes and wetlands and near-shore in the Ulhas River (Mumbai Metropolitan Region, India) and Thane Creek Catchment.
Using the grant for the citizen science approach, they can co-create efficient, user-friendly water monitoring strategies and systems based on innovative technologies, providing authorities, communities and other end-users with real-time pollution data.
This data will be used to practically translate the science developed from PATHWAYs into useable solutions for communities at risk of water pollution.
Dr Jonathan Pearson, Head of Warwick Water at the School of Engineering, University of Warwick comments:
“The grant enables us to work with NGOs in the UK and India to improve the water quality in India, as it stands the current water quality is poor, exacerbated by rapid urbanisation which is exerting tremendous pressure on the city water utilities with urban sewage and industrial effluent being directly discharged into water courses.
“The overall objective is to explore how citizen science can be used to support water pollution monitoring by exploring innovative citizen science pollution monitoring and equip our UK and India community leaders with the knowledge resources to empower citizens and build an evidence base to influence environmental change.”
Dr Sarah Cook, from the School of Engineering at the University of Warwick adds:
“The proposed work is essential for improving the holistic understanding of pollutant contamination in water bodies as well as appreciating how citizen science can improve the value of research. A key output of this work is an understanding of how to improve research on water quality led by local communities, whilst reinforcing the universal water challenges faced by both the UK and India, and the need to support one another in this common goal.”
UK Research and Innovation’s Head of Public Engagement, Tom Saunders, said:
“As part of UKRI’s new vision for public engagement we launched two new funding calls last year, one aimed at encouraging researchers to explore citizen methods, and another aimed at supporting researchers and universities to engage with communities and places and communities who have fewer opportunities to participate in research and innovation.
“The 53 pilot projects that we have funded represent an exciting range of ways that researchers and innovators can involve the public in their work, from games to citizens’ juries, storytelling to data crowdsourcing.
“In 2020 and beyond, we will build on the lessons we learn through funding these pilot projects to help us achieve our ambition of making research and innovation responsive to the knowledge, priorities and values of society and open to participation by people from all backgrounds.”
The project led by Dr Sarah Cook and Dr Jonathan Pearson will last four months.