An Interactive Web Platform to Empower Citizen Science for Water Conservation

Sunday, 15 February 2015
Exhibit Hall (San Jose Convention Center)
Aneesha Bhat, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ
[Background] Knowledge of water usage patterns in Phoenix is necessary for the research and development of sustainable practices in water resource management. This knowledge is currently limited in the Phoenix Metropolitan Area. In an effort to enhance water usage knowledge, we developed an intuitive, interactive, graphical, web-based application targeted towards high school and middle school children. The application is designed to obtain information regarding household residential water usage through an interactive platform and in-class activity. Results of individual audits are compared against data previously collected/data from peers/data from neighbors to evaluate trends in water consumption, spread awareness about sustainability and to educate students about water conservation. [Methods] The application is designed to be intuitive and user-friendly. The application can be accessed by various devices like laptops, iPads and computers. The design of the database allows researchers to compare individual water usage with the different hierarchical levels within the system (i.e., the classroom and within the neighborhood).  We measure changes in attitudes and water conservation behavior as a result of participation in the interactive application, by surveying students before and after the activity.  This tool also provides a platform for real time multi user collaboration and discussion about water usage practices amongst students as they take up the water audit. This real time interaction enables students to discuss, upload pictures and create an online journal of their activity. [Results] The application graphically visualizes individual water usage compared to water usage amongst peers in the same classroom. This kind of social and peer-based feedback has previously been used to promote environmental conservation. The results of this research contribute theoretically to our understanding of social norms and peer influence on personal behavior. Moreover, the results provide critical, and currently missing, information about residential water use in the Phoenix Metropolitan Area. [Conclusion] This tool demonstrates how technology can be used for environmental education, data collection and policy making. This tool can also be extended to collect regional data and provide information that can help governments plan for uncertainty and climate change.