Coordinators from across Australia were able to attend including members of Waterwatch, StreamWatch and Creek Watch. These programs are similar and have a common heritage and continue to operate in a variety of ways. The forum provided a great opportunity to share and compare our differences and similarities.
All programs represented at the forum have varying emphasis upon citizen science, water quality data, community awareness and education and school engagement. Nevertheless there was a universal agreement and commitment among coordinators, to strengthening the ties between programs and develop a more cohesive relationship, across the states. This strategy should engender a more universal appreciation of program value. It should also improve our reputations as a source for reliable data and a mechanism for building community capacity in citizen science and local environment advocacy.
Waterbug surveys, water quality monitoring, QA efforts and special events were common to most programs, although delivery methods and protocols, did vary. Some programs have experienced decline of activity in past few years due to restructures, funding cuts and limited resources, while others remain stable for at least the intermediate future.
The question regarding endpoint data users was common, while the desire for greater uptake and utilization of data to inform policy and on ground catchment management is universal. ACT data is currently used in SOE reports and Victoria is also likely to follow this direction. Data requests that do occur are not currently recorded by any program and it may be useful if future requests are logged by all of us.
The desire to adopt a more standardized kit and techniques was expressed and while it may be difficult to implement conformity across programs, it is feasible though to at least list a suite of available and acceptable resources as well as their related advantages and disadvantages. Similarly, any desire to develop a national data approach would demand common and comparable data metrics. There was also a common appreciation that programs need to stay current, where possible, with digital media development. This applies across databases, apps, social networks and web pages. This can be a resource hungry demand but program visibility is usually critical to program longevity.
At the end of the very full two day schedule we all felt a great sense of achievement and camaraderie as well as a sense of great potential for a more substantial approach to a national network.