Creek Watch To The Rescue

A series of new crowd-mapping apps activate citizens to contribute to monitoring the urban environment. Some of them, such as the Trees Near You app in New York and the San Francisco-based Urban Forest Map, are developed in order to inform citizens about the beauty of urban nature. Both are created in order to collectively map the urban woods and inform users about different tree types. Other apps, like the French Montre Verte, encourages urbanites to monitor the air quality in the city of Paris and address the local government.

Another interesting initiative, soon to be launched in the App Store,  is the Creek Watch app. Creek Watch is an iPhone application that enables San Francisco’s citizens to help monitor the health of the local watershed. Whenever a user passes by a waterway, he or she should spend a few seconds using the Creek Watch application to snap a picture and report about the water quality and amount of floating trash. The collected data will be aggregated by Creek Watch and shared with water control boards to help them track pollution and manage water resources. On the web page of Creek Watch you can find a map and table with all the collected data.

The Creek Watch App distinguishes four pieces of data which are not too technical and easy trackable for normal citizens: (1) the amount of water (empty, some, or full), the rate of flow (still, moving slowly, or moving fast), the amount of trash (none, some, or a lot), and a picture of the waterway. Creek Watch is a project developed at IBM Almaden Research Center in consultation with the California State Water Resources Control Board. The iPhone application will be released soon on the iTunes store, so you can get started collecting data! For now, the app focuses on California. Here’s a video in which the applications is explained.