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Portable water testing kits can be used for 'citizen science' across Canada

Citizen water testing is a "first step to connecting people to water and to want to protect it," says Water Rangers executive director Kat Kavanagh.

Joint initiative by Water Rangers and WWF Canada will test health parameters of water bodies across Canada

Kat Kavanagh, executive director of Water Rangers, and Elizabeth Hendriks, VP of Freshwater at WWF Canada, are seen here measuring dissolved oxygen in water. (Supplied by WWF Canada)

Citizen scientists can now monitor the water quality of bodies of water across Canada using portable water testing kits.

A joint project by the World Wildlife Fund Canada and the organization Water Rangers will provide testing kits to communities across the country, to fill in data gaps about water in Canada.

Over the last few years, WWF Canada conducted research that showed information on the health of Canada's water was lacking across the country. 

"We found that 65 per cent of our watersheds didn't have enough data available to understand the health of them," said Heather Crochetiere, senior fresh water specialist at WWF Canada.

Using Water Rangers' portable test kits, individuals — from kids to seniors — can test general health parameters of lakes, rivers and streams across Canada, including pH, hardness of the water, alkalinity, clarity, oxygen, air temperature and conductivity.

The contents of a water testing kit includes tools to measure pH, dissolved oxygen, water temperature, water hardness and conductivity. (Rumneek Johal/CBC)

The portable kits come complete with instructions for the various water tests, and tests themselves only take from ten to 15 minutes to complete.

"A lot of people think that science is too complicated. I don't think it has to be," said Kat Kavanagh, executive director of Water Rangers.

Citizen science can help gather baseline data on water health across Canada.

"There are a lot of things that the average citizen can do, and they can have fun doing it," said Kat Kavanagh, executive director of Water Rangers. (Rumneek Johal/CBC)

"There are two million lakes in Canada. There's no way we can afford to collect baseline data for all these lakes on our own," said Kavanagh.

"Citizen water testing is a first step to connecting people to water, and to want to protect it."

Water Rangers is expanding its database of information across the country, and through the partnership with WWF, it has conducted more than 25,000 tests nationally. There are now testers in every province, and two of the territories.

"When we get people out in the water with these kits, they actually start to take more ownership over the water," said Heather Crochetiere, senior fresh water specialist at WWF Canada. (Rumneek Johal/CBC)

"This information will let us know if there is an ecosystem that is in a little bit of trouble, it can help us figure out why that is, and it can help us inform the corrective action we might need to be taking," said Crochetiere.

Citizen science provides information for data-deficient watersheds across the country, and gets people thinking about and caring for their local water bodies, according to Kavanagh. 

"There are a lot of things that the average citizen can do, and they can have fun doing it. I really want to give people an opportunity to participate, to feel connected to nature and to feel like they're making a difference," said Kavanagh. 

Anyone looking to do their own water studies can find more information at the Water Rangers website.