The Open Water Project

SUMMARY: Water quality is a pressing global issue that is implicated in nearly every human system on our planet. The Open Water project aims to develop and curate a set of low-cost, open-source tools that will enable communities everywhere to collect, interpret, and share their water quality data.

PROBLEM SPACE: Access to clean water is necessary for human survival, and vital for the planetary ecosystems upon which all humans depend. Over a billion people do not currently have easy access to drinkable water; many more face significant contamination of their water systems. The recent chemical spill in West Virginia, ongoing threats to Chinese agriculture from polluted irrigation sources, and growing threats to water quality from unconventional extractive industries like hydraulic fracturing all point to an urgent, global need for better access to water quality information that can inform remediation efforts, new policies, and local action.

Traditional water monitoring uses expensive, proprietary technology, severely limiting the scope and accessibility of water quality data. Homeowners interested in testing their well water, watershed manager concerned about fish migration and health, and global communities facing toxins in their water supply would all benefit greatly from an open source, inexpensive, accessible approach to water quality monitoring.

Moreover, environmental scientists currently have no widely agreed-upon set of water quality data standards or frameworks for sharing data and methods. This makes collaboration among researchers, citizens, and water managers all but impossible, and slows the pace of innovation.

SOLUTION: The Open Water Project aims to make water quality information accessible, sharable, and meaningful to communities through five, related initiatives:

1) Open Hardware: Our low-cost water quality sensor, the Riffle, logs basic water quality measurements such as temperature, conductivity and turbidity;

2) Open Software: Our open source web platform will visualize water open water quality data, allowing researchers and communities to share and interpret environmental data in accessible ways;

3) Open Data: We plan on collaboratively developing open data standards, to facilitate data sharing within and across communities;

4) Open Education: We are committed to empowering local communities to understand, collect and become stewards of their own water data;

5) Open Community: Our design and development process is non-hierarchical, open, and employees an iterative, codesign process.

The Open Water Project team is based in New England, where we plan on conducting our initial pilot tests in Summer 2014. We also have partners at sites in Colombia and Rwanda who are eager to deploy our software and hardware. This project is an initiative of the Public Laboratory for Technology and Science (, a non-profit, global civic science network.

CONTACT PERSON: [email protected]