The two photos above show the River Nore at Poorman’s Bridge near Abbeyleix, Co. Laois (photos courtesy Tadhg Carroll) which is being sampled as part of DCU Water Institute’s Centennial project. This study is taking place over six months across the Nore catchment in Laois in partnership with Nore River Catchment Trust to capture data on water quality by testing for nitrates, phosphates and turbidity. The project uses FreshWater Watch’s Survey123 app to capture data including photos of the sampling sites. This visual data shows the changes in the sites (between March and July 2022 above), and can give information such as vegetation growth, river level changes and increase in livestock present. All this data may have an influence on the water quality and can corroborate changes in test results.
Already, four months in, a picture is emerging that shows water quality is better in the upper part of the Nore catchment with lower levels of nitrates and phosphates. As the River Nore flows south, these nutrients seem to accumulate as more tributaries join the main river body with higher levels at sampling points downstream. The turbidity of water samples at all sites is excellent which is positive.
The citizen scientists involved have really added to the project by taking note of any changes to their sampling sites, and logging information they feel may contribute to the project, which is a community-wide effort across the Nore and twelve of its tributaries in Laois. The benefits of citizen science to water quality monitoring and research are huge. Regular monitoring by citizens results in more data being collected, and frees up researchers’ time to analyse this data. This in turn helps keep the water quality at a higher standard as citizens are on the ground, aware of any events that may impact their local river.
When asked in a 2021 survey of over 4000 people by the Environmental Protection Agency about harm from environmental hazards in their local areas – Climate Change in the Irish Mind – 40% of respondents stated that they were “very worried” about water pollution, while 41% were “somewhat worried”. Improved water quality means an improved local environment and ecosystem which benefits the whole community. Becoming involved in citizen science likewise benefits the volunteers who find out more about their local environment, learn scientific skills, and build stronger connections with others through community engagement.
This project is supported by the DCU Educational Trust through the GLAS Communities Fund created by Rethink Ireland in partnership with Ornua Co-operative Limited and the Department of Rural and Community Development.