Since 2014, UF/IFAS Extension Florida Sea Grant agents have engaged citizen scientists to help gather data that managers need to evaluate coastal waters. Agents train citizens in agency-approved water quality-testing protocols and provide them with the equipment they need.
While the data cannot be used for regulatory purposes, it provides researchers and managers a higher resolution view of trends and events that are occurring in coastal waters.
The statewide program offers standardized training materials and a data repository, but the parameters that are monitored — such as dissolved oxygen, salinity, pH, water clarity and temperature — are determined by local groups. Currently eight communities in the state are involved in Florida Water Watch.
“The volunteers, they are the ambassadors for water quality…they are the ones out there really seeing the changes and that sparks community dialogue and community engagement,” said Lisa Krimsky, UF/IFAS Extension Florida Sea Grant agent and co-developer of Florida Water Watch.
The program recently got a new website that provides an easier interface for volunteers to submit their data and a way to visualize water quality trends by region. It also provides a map of the state showing programs and contact information for people that may want to use the data or start a program in their community.
Visit the new site and learn more about Florida Water Watch at: https://waterwatch.ifas.ufl.edu/programs/