Citizen Science Connected Blog Ecology 

Protect Local Waterways with the EarthEcho Water Challenge

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By Sean Russell

On March 22, this year’s EarthEcho Water Challenge kicked off, empowering young people and community members around the world to monitor and protect local water resources in their communities. Initiated in 2003 as the World Water Monitoring Challenge (in celebration of the U.S. Clean Water Act), this year-round, global program is designed to connect anyone, of any age, to their local water resources through water quality monitoring. Participants share their water quality data through the global EarthEcho Water Challenge online database, contributing to our understanding of the world’s water resources. Participants can also share on the database how they take action to restore and protect their local waterways. 

Their findings are published open source to a global audience through the EarthEcho Water Challenge web platform. Additionally, at a regional level, EarthEcho Water Challenge partners engage scientists and conservation program managers in working alongside young citizen scientists to share and interpret their water quality data.

By participating in the EarthEcho Water Challenge, you will join over 1.5 million youth and adult volunteers around the world who have monitored water quality in 146 countries. The EarthEcho Water Challenge is led by EarthEcho International, a nonprofit organization established by siblings Philippe and Alexandra Cousteau in honor of their father, Philippe Cousteau Sr., and grandfather, legendary explorer Jacques Yves Cousteau. EarthEcho’s mission is to inspire young people worldwide to act now for a sustainable future.

As we continue another year of the EarthEcho Water Challenge, we are excited to share tools and resources to help citizens of any age in any location around the world learn more about their local waterways and take action to protect these important resources. 

Interested in planning a water quality monitoring event in your community? Check out the new EarthEcho Water Challenge planning toolkit for tips to help you get started.

EarthEchoWater Challenge Stories

In 2018, inspired by their water quality monitoring results, over 22,300 EarthEcho Water Challenge participants took action beyond monitoring, leading a variety of projects and campaigns designed to protect water resources in their local communities. These are just a few of their stories.

Biscayne Bay, Miami, Florida

After learning about the local marine environments of Biscayne Bay off the coast of Miami, FL, students at Key Biscayne K-8 center monitored local water quality to investigate the health of this ecosystem. Building on this work, students grew and planted mangrove propagules to restore mangrove habitats in an effort to stabilize shorelines, help prevent erosion, and reduce nutrient runoff.

Students participate in the Key Biscayne K-8 Center Mangrove Restoration Project. Photo provided by EarthEcho International.

Pitt County, North Carolina

Over the past several years, Love A Sea Turtle (LAST), a youth-led organization, has incorporated the EarthEcho Water Challenge into their programs. After monitoring the water quality of lakes and rivers in their local parks, these young leaders realized the importance of preventing excess runoff and pollution from entering their local waterways through storm drains. Working with their city, they helped revitalize a Paint the Drain program. The team took the lead on creating the tools and resources to mark storm drains with educational messages about the connection between storm drains and local waterways, communicating the importance of not dumping trash or waste into these systems. Over 4,000 drains have been marked so far through this initiative. 

Emma Dao is Pitt County Paint the Drain Program Coordinator and a Love A Sea Turtle Student advisory board member. “My work with Paint the Drain has become even more meaningful to me with critical water issues arising around the globe,” she said. “It is my hope that Paint the Drain helps to inspire others to act and think about their environmental impact, reverse alarming trends in water pollution, and ensure that fresh clean water is available for future generations.”  

Love A Sea Turtle volunteers participate in the Paint the Drain project. Photo provided by EarthEcho International. 

Washington State

Through their Students for Salmon program, the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association (NSEA) in Washington State connects local students to the streams and waterways in their region, while providing them with an opportunity to learn about one of the Pacific Northwest’s iconic species. After collecting water quality data and sharing their results through the EarthEcho Water Challenge database, students better understand the health of these waterways and take immediate conservation action by participating in efforts to plant native plants along stream banks and remove invasive species from these ecosystems. 

NESA Students for Salmon participants take part in the river restoration program. Photo provided by EarthEcho International.

Nagpur, India

The Green Vigil Foundation in Nagpur, India has been working to engage young people and community members in monitoring lake water quality through the EarthEcho Water Challenge for over five years. Their findings highlight the impacts of pollution on these waterways and have served as the basis for intensive educational efforts to help community members understand actions they can take to help improve water quality. They have also used their findings to advocate for government engagement in cleaning up the lakes in their region.

Volunteers from the Green Vigil Foundation performing water quality testing. Photo provided by EarthEcho International. 

It’s your turn!

This year, we encourage you to join these participants, and thousands of others around the world, in taking further action to protect local waterways as part of your work with the EarthEcho Water Challenge. The EarthEcho Water Challenge Action Portal  provides a hub of inspiration and ideas to help you learn how to translate your data and water quality findings into action to help protect and improve the health of local water resources. Here you’ll find stories and examples of waterway conservation projects, as well as actionable steps you can follow to protect your local waterways. You can also submit your own EarthEcho Water Challenge project story to feature your waterway conservation efforts or share on social media using the hashtag #MonitorWater.

Ready to take action? Learn more about the EarthEcho Water Challenge and order your water monitoring test kit. Once you’ve completed your tests, share your data through the EarthEcho Water Challenge database. Remember, you’ll also have the opportunity to share highlights from any waterway conservation actions you take beyond monitoring. Help inspire others to take action as well by sharing your experiences on social media using the hashtag #MonitorWater. Let’s get started!  

About the Author

Sean first joined the EarthEcho International team in 2015 as a Youth Leadership Fellow. He has dedicated his professional career to empowering young people with the tools and motivation they need to become involved in leadership initiatives, and is the founder and director of the Youth Ocean Conservation Summit. Sean is a member of the National Marine Educators Association Board of Directors, and a former member of the State Farm Youth Advisory Board, the Board of Directors of Youth Service America, and the Florida 4-H Foundation.

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