Insights from citizen observers and inspiring plans ahead

Last Thursday, 7th February 2019, eGovalb with the Ground Truth 2.0 project's Swedish citizen observatory VattenFokus arranged a meeting in Nyköping in collaboration with officials from Länsstyrelsen i Södermanlands län (the County Administrative Board for Södermanland).


Among the participants were representatives of the Dunkern citizen observatory, Nyköpingsåarnas Vattenvårdsförbund (a water conservation association focused on the streams in and around Nyköping) and Svenska Naturskyddsföreningen (the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation). The representatives from eGovlab at Stockholm University were accompanied by representatives from Akvo Foundation, Tygron BV and NDConsult.

The Dunkern citizen observatory presented the strategy behind and the results from their activities near the lakes Dunkern and Misteln. In addition to measurements in the lakes, they have also been sampling the upstream effluents to the lakes. Periods of drought, followed by periods of rain, can give varying results. Regular samplings over longer periods of time are needed to give a more complete picture.

A short example was shown of how citizen observatory data can be visualized using Tygron’s Geodesign Platform. This platform can be used for interactive games to cooperate towards the realization of shared goals around water quality.

It is desirable to continue monitoring water quality in the area, and also to expand the types of measurements. More parameters than nitrate and phosphate levels can be of interest. Methods like "exploratory fishing" can give additional useful information.

vattenfokus 2

Citizen observers are valuable, as representatives of the general public "out in the real world". While collecting data they are also raising the awareness of issues related to water quality. One important question is how to involve more citizens and reach out to new groups of people. One way can be through schools and youth organizations, and others who have outdoor activities.

Water protection in an agricultural landscape can be a complex matter. Sometimes there are conflicting interests. On the other hand, local farmers have shown interest in and have joined the citizen observatories. In some cases, there are obsolete and counterproductive requirements from courts of law and other authorities, for example concerning drainage ditches. Then someone must raise the issue to Mark- och miljödomstolen, the Land and Environment Court, to "modernize" the requirements.

Finally, the sustainability for the VattenFokus platform and the citizen observatories was discussed. Our hope is that authorities like Länsstyrelsen and others will find that citizen observatories can give contributions to research and be a help in the authority’s work. It may turn out to be both a cost-effective way to fulfill their assignments and a way to strengthen the dialogue with the citizens.