The Model for CBWM
CBWM is a participatory process of linking a community group to appropriate technologies for understanding, protecting and managing their watershed. Each monitoring program should be adapted to the unique biophysical, social and political features of a region.
The attitudes, knowledge and skill of a group should control where to begin addressing watershed issues. This includes knowing how well a group is organized and led, and to what degree they are initiating a water project because of its perceived relevance. A key to successful CBWM is a sense of community service and volunteerism.
There are several choices to make regarding which water parameters should be measured and the level of technology that should be used. Factors such as expense, availability, simplicity and accuracy must be considered. A common misconception is to view CBWM as only technology transfer of water test kits to community groups. Community volunteers should be trained in the principles of watershed management and use of monitoring equipment in a way that is sensitive to their educational backgrounds and local interests. Workshops should be efficient and enjoyable while they provide the basic information for collecting strategic information.
Local environmental data are frequently unavailable, hindering the development of customized, natural resource management plans. Community-based data have the potential to describe watershed processes and trends that can significantly enhance local planning and action. Monitoring groups should gradually take on increasing responsibilities for collecting, managing, interpreting and distributing their data. The data collected must be credible and useful. Its reliability needs to be demonstrated with some level of quality control and assurance that includes protocols for conducting standardized training, evaluation of monitor skills, test kit maintenance and data processing, interpretation and dissemination. Timely feedback of data to the community in understandable ways is essential.
Local Knowledge to Action
It is not enough to collect water data for its own sake. Appropriate outlets for locally-generated information and the CBWM approach may be grouped into four general categories: Environmental Education, Protection and Restoration of the Environment, Advocacy and Spread. Monitoring groups should choose which of these strategies to take at a particular pace and scale. Each group will have a unique mix of actions that will probably change over time.
It is not enough to collect water data for its own sake. Environmental Education is an appropriate outlet for locally-generated information through the CBWM approach. Environmental Education includes both formal and non-formal ways to raise community awareness of water issues and best practices for broad-based participation in watershed protection.
Protection and Restoration
It is not enough to collect water data for its own sake. Protection and Restoration of the Environmental is also an appropriate outlet for locally-generated information through the CBWM approach. This means finding practical ways to initiate improved land and water use and correct existing problems.
It is not enough to collect water data for its own sake. Advocacy is another outlet for locally-generated information obtained through CBWM. Through Advocacy, citizens may influence decision-makers at all levels of society to establish policies and laws that protect watersheds and foster civic education and involvement.
Sustainable Groups and Programs
For a CBWM group to continue beyond the life of an externally-funded project, it must have leadership, diverse activities and a sense of relevancy. Data should have an outlet in one or more of the Local Knowledge to Action strategies, and accomplishments must occur at an acceptable pace to keep volunteer monitors motivated. Autonomy of local groups is essential and includes having local trainers and access to data management tools, sampling equipment and other resources. Autonomy is not precluded by partnerships with other groups or support institutions, however, and external support, such as technical backstopping and funding of a local group may be beneficial or even necessary over the long term.
Watershed Stewardship and Quality of Life
Ultimately, CBWM may be seen as a component of a complex, holistic system of watershed management. It functions best in concert with actions of GOs, NGOs and research institutions that are working on environmental issues. There is a place for CBWM regardless of the level of governmental involvement in watershed management, and the role of community groups may vary widely depending on existing laws, policies and governmental activities. Watershed management that balances concerns of economic growth, community life and environmental quality is greatly enhanced by local awareness and action, including locally-generated data. The power of CBWM is in the creative merging of community-based and science-based approaches for improved quality of life.
Policy and Institutions
Water monitoring groups are affected by policies, including those that pertain to water distribution and use, pollution prevention, and the role of citizens in watershed management and planning. Ideally, a CBWM group will positively affect water quality and quantity by providing data and ideas for improved policy.