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This guide was created as a testable prototype to understand better the general interested public’s reactions to learning how to design a water monitoring program. By interacting with this prototype and its resources, you’re providing us with valuable insights that can be actioned by the entire country. So, thank you!

Why this prototype? Much of the guides for this work are regionally specific and locked in pdf documents. Many of these documents have been refined over time, but there often isn’t a robust iterative and innovative cycle built into best serving new people (since by the time the guides are done, those writing them are experts!). Through discussions with experts, we realized that their grasp of the basics would be very helpful for those just getting started.

We want to UNLOCK that incredible expertise, helping new groups learn from those who have come before, without having to make all the same mistakes. This is NOT a ‘final’, comprehensive, perfect, or otherwise all-in-one tool. It is a guide or path to help people access the incredible opportunities there are to get involved in organizing water monitoring programs.

We aim to test how those searching for answers to start monitoring or how to improve their localized testing program can be super-charged. The goal is to support more high-quality water monitoring across the UK in their efforts to include the public in restoring rivers!

Guiding principles

  • Keep it simple: this should be an introductory resource for those looking to start. Use plain language (and glossaries/definitions sparingly).
  • Keep it brief: Since it’s an overview and introduction, stay high-level and out of the weeds.
  • Base it on what’s worked for others: Examples should help show how principles have worked for different contexts.
  • Send people to known resources: If a guide or resource exists, link to it and help share the good work of others.
  • Keep it evergreen: While this should be updated regularly, it should contain tried and true methods and approaches.

Project plan and timeline

Phase 1: Initial build

Initial building and content feedback (current): Initial content scope is defined, with some of the content laid out but incomplete. There should be a sense of what is in each section, how navigation works, and what content is planned. We’ll seek feedback from key partners to ensure the scope is appropriate.

Organic traffic assessment: Determine initial key words, phrases and questions that should drive content structure. Conduct the first experimental google ad.

Phase 2: Test, improve, repeat

External testing: The first round of informal user testing will have 10-20 participants with some knowledge/interest in organizing water monitoring programs (but not expertise) to understand what information resonates, if their questions are satisfied, if they feel more capable and knowledgeable of taking on setting up a new program. Feedback after every 3 participants is integrated to fill in gaps.

Internal content gathering: Expert partners within the UK network will have the opportunity to provide feedback and expertise on structure and content, enriching the initial content offering.

Driving organic traffic: Google ads will be leveraged to determine key search terms and to drive traffic to the site. Things like return rates, time on site, plus a mechanism to ‘sign up’ for more information will help us understand where efforts can make the biggest impact.

Phase 3: Reflect

Insights and recommendation phase: Rework any designs, branding, and structures to allow for professionalization. Provide insights from research as a shareable impact report.

Planning for longevity: Based on what is created, focus on items that need maintenance and what can be evergreen. Plan for its final website location, branding, communication, and maintenance.

Live testing: Work with groups in Northern England to demonstrate the project’s effectiveness and to create a ‘case study’ on how it works in practice.

Publicity: Creating a video and publicity program to align with public events that expose more people to these resources.

This prototype is conceived and curated by Kat Kavanagh of Water Rangers.

Contributors: Thank you to everyone who has worked tirelessly to set up and run successful water monitoring programs. As much as possible, those resources have been or will be integrated here. Many of those from the CaSTCo project have also been sharing insights and ideas that have been integrated into this.

This is a legacy Natural Course project intertwined with the CaSTCo initiative to propel innovative thinking and techniques into the water monitoring space. Both projects aim to provide mechanisms for meaningful participation in community water monitoring.