The growing imbalance between water demand and supply has stressed the quality and quantity of the water resources in the Kathmandu Valley of Nepal. Haphazard urbanization along with a lack of integrated land use planning has both affected surface water and restricted the recharge potential of the underlying groundwater resources. Precipitation is the only way of recharging surface and groundwater sources (including streams, springs, wells and stone spouts), and the Valley receives 80% of its total rainfall during monsoon (i.e. from June to September). If you’re not sure what a stone spout is, you should read one of our older stories here! Roughly two-thirds of the cultivable land in Nepal is rainfed rather than irrigated, so uneven and erratic rainfall patterns also severely affect the agricultural productivity of the country (Malla, 2008). There is a large issue to be addressed here. However, for effective planning and management of these water resources, the critical first step is that the problem needs to be characterized and better understood. Then, all relevant information should be forwarded to concerned stakeholders and decision makers for responsible action and wise management decisions.
One of S4W-Nepal’s major objectives is generating good spatio-temporal hydro-meteorological data (e.g. when and where is water moving, and how much, and of what quality) as part of the critical first step mentioned above; these data are necessary to support wise water management decisions. To this end, S4W-Nepal has launched the Monsoon Expedition 2019 with a slogan “Count the drops, before it stops!”. For data generation, S4W-Nepal leverages the power of young researchers, citizen science, and mobile technology. We use an Android smartphone application called Open Data Kit (ODK) Collect to measure different components of water (e.g. precipitation, water flow, water quality, etc.) with the help of citizen scientists (CS). Advances in mobile technology through increased GPS accuracy and high-resolution cameras have undoubtedly improved the accuracy and reliability of citizen scientists’ observations. For measuring precipitation of the Valley, S4W-Nepal uses a local rain gauge constructed of readily available repurposed materials costing less than a dollar and we provide it to CS for free. This approach is both lower in cost and more rapidly scalable than other traditional methods of measuring precipitation. This story will focus on various aspects of our Monsoon Expedition 2019. It is currently ongoing, and we hope you enjoy this little glimpse into what we do 🙂
Aspects of Monsoon Expedition 2019
Citizen Scientist Recruitment
Almost all CS are recruited by one of three methods: through personal contacts and word-of-mouth, through outreach programmes and through social media (using Google Forms). We’ll describe the outreach programmes in more detail. As a part of the monsoon expedition this year, S4W-Nepal conducted two outreaches in the Valley leading up to the monsoon season for Bachelor’s level and graduate level university students. The group from one of these outreaches is pictured below in Figure 1. The main purpose of these was to raise awareness among university students about current water-related issues, possible management measures and the importance of data for informing management decisions. The outreach programmes have been a good opportunity to share our ongoing research and what we’ve learned through the process. Finally, we also provide a platform for all who attend the outreach programmes to participate in data collection. This year we have dozens of Nepali and foreign undergraduate and graduate students involved as volunteers and interns discussing water-related issues that the Valley currently faces and hopefully assisting in a step towards better water management.
Figure 1: Outreach program at Kantipur Engineering College (KEC) in May 2019; Bachelor’s level engineering students participated.
Citizen Scientist Motivation
Motivation is one of the most important driving factors for CS; it is critical for keeping their interest alive and a high continuation rate in data collection. Some of the actions we take to help motivate CS include sending weekly acknowledgement texts to CS every Friday that encourage them and show the incredible positive impact they can have just through data collection. Social media has also been a good medium for the spread of news and necessary information to our targeted audience. We often disseminate data collected and sent in by our CS through social media, whether it is regarding a major rainfall event or any campaign findings.
Citizen Scientist Follow Up
This year during Monsoon Expedition 2019, we have the goal of conducting immediate follow-up calls to CS after quality control of their data to reduce the repetition of mistakes (if any) and also to thank and encourage them for taking regular measurements. Also, we are planning to do bi-weekly or weekly follow up with CS if there is any sort of discontinuation in the data set and perform field visits if necessary in urgent cases.
Spatial distribution of Precipitation CS in the Valley in 2019
As of the beginning of June 2019, about 60 CS were recruited via the three recruitment methods listed in Recruitment section to cover a large portion of the Valley (Figure 2). The areas that we are focusing on are primarily the ones having Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (DHM) stations. During the 2018 monsoon, we attempted to recruit as many CS as possible and collect as much data as possible. In 2019, we are shifting our focus towards a focus on data quality rather than quantity. Our goal is that good and reliable spatio-temporal precipitation data could be generated and used to inform water management decisions in the future.
We also love getting to know our CS through working together, and we want you to get to know them as well, because they’re great! Every so often, we publish an interview or story about one of our citizen scientists as well. Our most recent one is available here.
Thank you for taking an interest in our work and reading about what we’re up to this summer as part of Monsoon Expedition 2019!!
Figure 2: Spatial distribution of citizen scientists measuring precipitation in the Kathmandu Valley in 2019.
Malla, G. (2008) Climate change and its impact on Nepalese agriculture. Journal of agriculture and environment. 9, pp.62-71.