At Ottawa Riverkeeper, we are currently developing a Citizen Science Hub, a unique space in our office where volunteers will be able to come to learn about the river! As part of this hub, we will purchase equipment and materials to test recreational water quality. This will include a small, portable incubator as well as other required water quality testing supplies.
This equipment will allow us to measure the level of E. Coli, a harmful bacteria, in surface water from a variety of locations at a relatively low cost. E. Coli is used to measure water quality because it is an indicator of fecal contamination from potential urban pollution sources, such as combined sewers and stormwater outfalls. The amount of this bacteria found in water also signals the presence of pathogens that can be harmful to human health; if E.coli is present, there is a high likelihood that other pathogens and viruses are also present.
We are particularly excited about this new initiative because it will allow us to engage citizen scientists, like our Riverwatchers, enabling them to better understand important water quality indicators and perform water quality tests themselves. This equipment will also allow us and our network to perform water quality tests in communities that do not have access to a professional lab, as it is light, compact, and easy to transport.
We are currently doing preliminary tests to ensure our results will be consistent. We have been working with a local Riverwatcher to collect regular water samples from the Rideau River, which has allowed us to better understand how the equipment will work and learn more about the water quality in this part of the river. Once we have finished the preliminary testing phase and purchased new equipment, we will launch more water quality testing activities throughout the watershed.
Stay tuned for more news about our citizen science hub as it develops further, and if you would like to learn more about future water quality testing opportunities, please contact our Riverwatch Coordinator, Larissa Holman, at: firstname.lastname@example.org.