Social impacts of citizen science water monitoring programs
The drive to protect and improve surface water quality requires an array of policies, institutions, professionals, and procedures, even in the face of uncertain budgets and an increasing scope of work. Since the 1990s, the concept of “citizen science” has provided a framework under which volunteers supplement the water monitoring duties of scientists by producing more data and, in some cases, expanding their reach (Conrad and Hinchey 2011; McKinley et al. 2017). Volunteers, on the whole, benefit by contributing to society (Lawrence 2006), and by learning about science and environmental issues (Hecker et al. 2018; McKinley et al. 2017; Phillips et al. 2018). Many citizen science programs welcome youth, but this paper focuses on programs for adults.
Citizen science programs address many types of science, not just water monitoring. Species monitoring contributes to biodiversity conservation (e.g., bird counts, whale watching, and butterfly migration), and space science and astronomy programs have expanded (Dickinson et al. 2012). Water quality monitoring is considered to be one of the largest activities (Conrad and Hinchey 2011), with program numbers in the United States estimated from 1,675 (Stepenuck 2013) to 1,720 (National Water Quality Monitoring Council 2019). Volunteer water monitoring has provided scientists with more data,…