I just downloaded a free new iPhone application, called CreekWatch, that will let me take a more active role in reporting on the health of watersheds and reservoirs that I see both near my home and when I'm on the road.
The application, which was developed by IBM and is running on an IBM research lab server, is an example of Citizen Science and using crowdsourcing technology for green purposes. It is really simply to use. You simply take a photograph of a creek, river, lake or other body of water (the phone will log the location using the global positioning satellite, if you let it). Then you answer a couple of questions about water level, the presence of trash and so forth. When you upload your answers, the IBM research server will catalog the data for research purposes. You can check out some of those data points on the Creek Watch Web site, although most are for the initial beta test area in San Jose, Calif., right now.
Christine Robson, the lead IBM researcher on the project, likens Creek Watch to the mobile app version of the Christmas bird count. The bird count, which has been going on for more than 100 years, encouraging average citizens to go out and record how may birds they see, what type they are, and so forth. This "application" has become one of the world's most important global data sets for tracking bird migration habits, according to Robson.
There is no particular reason that you couldn't use this application to record information about tidal streams or marshes, but the current focus is on ocean water, Robson says.
During the first week of the application's release in late October, there were approximately 400 downloads and data has already been submitted from countries in Europe, as well as from the United States and Japan.
As water becomes a more critical issue, applications such as Creek Watch can help us gather more information about the realities of our water supply. Sort of like hearing about the weather from someone on the scene instead of relying on often outdated predictions. IBM is already working on a version of the application for Android-based mobile devices.