Environmental enforcement? Yes, there’s an app for that too.
As California’s permanent budget crisis results in continuing cutbacks to environmental agencies, IBM has rolled out Creek Watch, an iPhone app that lets the State Water Resources Control Board crowdsource the condition of the Golden State’s waterways.
Here’s how it works: You’re out for a jog, or a hike, or just walking the dog. When you cross a creek, stream, or other body of water, you pull out your iPhone and fire up the Creek Watch app.
The app asks you to take a picture of the creek and then click on tabs that note the water level (dry, some, full), flow rate (still, slow, fast), and the amount of trash (none, some, a lot). Other screens define those terms and show photos as examples. For instance, “a lot” of trash is 10 or more pieces of debris. There’s also a place for citizen scientists to jot down additional observations.
The app uses the iPhone’s GPS chip to pinpoint the creek’s location, and the photos and information are uploaded to the Creek Watch database, which can be tapped by state water officials.
“Creek Watch lets the average citizen contribute to the health of their water supply — without PhDs, chemistry kits, and a lot of time,” Christine Robson of IBM’s Almaden Research Center in San Jose said in a statement.
“With more than 700 miles of creeks in Santa Clara County alone, we need innovative technologies like this one to empower the community to help us continuously improve our water quality and the ecosystem,” noted Carol Boland, a watershed biologist for the city of San Jose.
So far, the reviews of the app by citizen water monitors have been positive.
“I’ll be able to report trash in the creek behind my house, with location and photos automatically,” wrote one person on the Creek Watch app review page. “I hope the water district is watching.”