Daylighting Water Quality Monitoring Data

As federal and state led watershed monitoring and restoration efforts become increasingly limited by funding cuts and political pressure, supporting new approaches to technology that unifies volunteer watershed improvement and monitoring is more important than ever. Water Reporter has emerged as a leading platform that has transformed the way engaged citizens and local restoration professionals communicate and work together to improve water quality. Building on this momentum our team has released Flow, an easy to use data management and visualization system for volunteer water quality monitoring programs.

Image courtesy of Shore Rivers

Why we’re passionate about volunteer monitoring

Volunteer water quality monitoring networks represent expansive coverage, countless hours of donated time, and a willingness of individuals to connect with local organizations to routinely measure the health of a waterway. Spearheaded by practitioners and restoration professionals, these data can yield tremendous insight to the threats and challenges that face watershed management while providing a vital baseline of information that can be used to better understand how the waterway responds to dynamic, human induced changes to our natural world. The data provided by volunteer efforts consist of millions of records of often untapped potential that if unified could be leveraged to prioritize restoration efforts, fill state and federal monitoring gaps, and even influence human behaviors and attitudes toward watershed restoration.

Unfortunately, efforts to acquire, standardize, and effectively leverage these localized data for catalyzing watershed improvement and policy decision making on a national scale, have fallen short. This is due to an almost countless number of problematic factors with three of the most common barriers outlined below:

  • Top-down data acquisition efforts that provide little incentive for contribution for boot-strapped volunteer monitoring programs
  • Lack of technical expertise and access to robust applications that allow volunteer monitoring programs to manage their data in an extensible format.
  • Development of data management and data collection systems that cannot be easily integrated with other volunteer monitoring programs.

Water Reporter’s Flow extension represents significant progress toward meeting these challenges. Without hiring a custom development firm, database architect, or trying to stand up technology in house, our Water Reporter users have gained a single place to manage all of their monitoring sites, readings, parameters, and thresholds from one convenient dashboard.

Readings view on the Flow Data Source Dashboard

With a few clicks users can manage all elements of their water quality data while being able to easily setup live monitoring site maps that can be easily deployed to your website and shared through social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook, and the Water Reporter Community.

Flow affords its users the flexibility to set a variety of dynamic thresholds (ranges and boundaries) and grades to instantly score your readings by parameter and monitoring station. With these rules in place, anytime you add new data to the system, it will be instantaneously scored and made available to be shown publicly on your maps no matter where they live. For example you could color your monitoring sites based on bacteria levels or a combination the parameters your organization’s program is collecting.

WQ Data from the Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper. Monitoring sites scored according to the Water Quality Index

This is just the beginning

As our users work to update their data and share their respective maps in Flow, we have their volunteer program backed with Water Reporter’s powerful API. This allows us all to rapidly and cost effectively work together to integrate these data into any number of applications and use cases that support watershed improvement. That said, we don’t have to do everything at once. Starting by solving small data management and visualization challenges gets the entire movement closer to creating a real-time network of the health of our waterways so we can stop paying for and relying on yesterdays data to make tomorrow’s water management decisions. What’s more is that our development choices will be driven by bottom to top participation and a passion to watch over the local water resources we depend on as a community.

Getting Started

Pro subscription account holders in Water Reporter can start using Flow by clicking on Manage Data on their dashboard, you can also get more info from our help documents. To get a Water Reporter Team member started working through your data, get in touch at We’ll ask you to send over your existing data (if there is any), monitoring station locations, and any information on how you want to score your data. Once we have that we can get started on setting up all the components for you in Water Reporter. You’ll be able to take over and run with it.

If you don’t have a Pro subscription to Water Reporter yet, your first step will be to head to the website and upgrade your account. Then the steps will follow the same pattern listed above.