How we built an open source project to monitor water quality - InfoAmazonia

By VJ pixel, coordinator of the Rede Project InfoAmazonia

A report on the paths and learning acquired during the implementation of Rede InfoAmazonia, a network of sensors that seeks to monitor water quality in communities in the Amazon

This December, InfoAmazonia ends the first phase of its project to build sensors open source. The initiative, awarded at the Google Impact Challenge Brazil 2014, provided for the formation of an independent network for monitoring water quality for urban and riverside communities in the Amazon.

In early 2014, when researching initiatives that carry out community environmental monitoring, we identified several initiatives to collect data and analyze air quality, such as the Smart Citizen Kit, DustDuino, and Air Quality Egg. The only one we found focused on monitoring water quality was the riffle, which encouraged us to plan an initiative with a similar objective, and became the inspiration and starting point for the Rede InfoAmazonia project.

In the first half of that year, we carried out preliminary research and met with specialists in water quality in Brazil and the USA, to understand what we would need to develop to monitor the quality of life of riverside populations in the Amazon. We signed up and were awarded the Google Impact Challenge Brazil, which made the project financially viable.

In July we officially started its execution. It is important to highlight that Google's involvement went beyond the financial investment for the development of equipment and creation of the network. During the execution of Rede InfoAmazonia, we had the strategic support of company employees and two consultants contracted by it, Sitawi Finance for Good and the Creates Global.

In the first half of the project, on September 5, 2014, we organized a hackathon on water quality monitoring, where we addressed issues such as public data and open source hardware development. Our goal was to map individuals interested in the subject, as well as learn from them. From the event came the visaguas, application that presents data on water quality in the Amazon, a visualization of the data that we analyzed and helped us to conclude that the Santarém region would be the best for implementing the project.

At the end of that year we made our first visit to Santarém, with meetings with the Health and Happiness Project (PSA), as well as with the Environmental Secretariats of Santarém and Belterra. In March 2015, the team carried out the second mission in the region, with the objective of providing subsidy to the population to understand the context of Rede InfoAmazonia. With the mobilization of the PSA and the Environmental Secretariats, we hold workshops about ?water quality monitoring and citizen journalism? for leaders of seven riverside communities in Santarém, six in the Amazon basin (Pixuna do Tapará, Nova Vista do Ituqui, São José do Ituqui, Pixuna do Tapará, Igarapé da Praia and Castela) and one in Tapajós (Alter do Chão). On this trip, we started a partnership with the Electronic Media Laboratory from the Federal University of Western Pará (UFOPA).

During this entire period, in parallel with engagement activities, and during 2015, we carried out research and benchmarking of other initiatives (especially the Waspmote Plug & Sense! Smart Water). The creation, development and testing of hardware prototypes were carried out in partnership with Dev Technology. The device was eventually named Mother of Water. We also developed an online platform that received and displayed data collected by the devices.

In October, we held a cycle of workshops to train and promote volunteer engagement. We carry out a basic training in electronics to attract potential interested parties in free technologies, and then we carry out a technical presentation of the Mother of Water and the operation of the equipment. Collectively, we were able to anticipate challenges that would be posed in the installation process. We also offer a citizen journalism workshop to sensitize participants to the importance of using journalistic methods for content production and distribution.

Continuing with this third mission, we the deployment of monitoring equipment at 18 points, in the cities of Santarém, Belterra and Mojuí dos Campos. As part of the knowledge appropriation process, the installation was carried out by the communities themselves under the guidance of the Rede InfoAmazonia team. On this journey, we produced a video to spread the initiative.

After installing the equipment in the water reservoirs in the Santarém region, we began to monitor the data collected by the sensors through the project's website. Clearly, the data collected remotely was not compatible with the analyzes carried out in the laboratory, which indicated that more time is needed dedicated to bench and field tests, in order to increase the reliability of the collected data, so that the equipment can be produced. on a large scale.

Throughout the InfoAmazonia Network period, we participated in various events, presenting the project and learning from similar initiatives. Among them are the 1st Meeting of the International Participatory Monitoring and Management Network and the International Seminar on Participatory Monitoring for the Management of Biodiversity and Renewable Natural Resources (SINPAR 2014), in Manaus; O VI Latin American Meeting on Community Water Management in Olmue, Chile; and the barnraising, organized by the Public Lab, in New Orleans, USA. In the latter, during a round table on water quality monitoring equipment, there was a consensus that the Mãe d?Água is the most complete equipment open source to perform this function.

The final period of the project supported by Google was dedicated to ensuring the use of the legacy of the InfoAmazonia Network. We signed a partnership with Institutes of Water Sciences and Technology (ICTA) and Engineering and Geosciences (IEG) of UFOPA, focusing on the transmission of knowledge and monitoring equipment so that the technology is incorporated into its research projects.

The ease of exchange and availability of information also attracted researchers from Federal Institute of Pará (IFPA), from Indonesia Speleological Society, and other institutions interested in exploring the Mãe d?Água. Enthusiasts from all over the world are using and expanding the knowledge and technology produced in these two years.

Once the reliability of the data collected by the equipment is high enough, it can be produced in scale to serve communities around the world, especially those that use alternative sources of water supply.

We believe that our contribution in this period was to demonstrate the possibilities of using free hardware and citizen science to cover gaps in information on socio-environmental issues. Our main perception to start the project? that the inhabitants of Amazonian cities suffer from a problem that is now invisible? still serves as a motivation to move forward.

If you want to know more details about the InfoAmazonia Network and its equipment, access the online platform of data collection and visualization. If you want to stay informed about the project and follow related news, join the Facebook group.

If you are interested in replicating the system we have developed, access the following links:

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