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The California Citizen Science, Crowdsourcing and STEM Toolkit for Agencies and Tribes Working with Surface Waters and Watersheds

Citizen science, crowdsourcing and STEM help agencies and the public to innovate, collaborate, and discover. With the input and involvement of science minded local stakeholders, unique, effective and cost effective solutions are created. Watershed health monitoring also provides an avenue in achieving water quality and quantity improvements and movement towards watershed resiliency.

The CA-CSCS Toolkit provides agencies and tribes resources for developing and managing of citizen science, crowdsourcing and STEM projects as they relate to California’s watersheds and surface waters.


Citizen science involves public participation in the scientific process to form research questions, conduct scientific experiments, collect and analyze data, interpret results, make discoveries, develop technologies and applications, and solve complex real-world problems on a primarily avocational basis.


Crowdsourcing involves an open call from an individual, institution, non-profit organization or agency for volunteers to provide information or help solve a particular problem. A large group of either unknown or trusted individuals (“the crowd”) responds.

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM)

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education policy and curriculum promotes more interest and involvement in the STEM disciplines so that the next generations will be equipped with the knowledge and skills to solve tough problems, gather and evaluate evidence, and make sense of information.

California Volunteers

State Water Resource Control Board

Created by the State Legislature in 1967, the five-member Board protects water quality by setting statewide policy, coordinating and supporting the Regional Water Board efforts, and reviewing petitions that contest Regional Board actions. Together with the Regional Boards, the State Board is authorized to implement the federal Clean Water Act in California. The State Board also is solely responsible for allocating surface water rights. The nine Regional Boards are semi-autonomous and are comprised of seven part-time Board members appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate. Regional boundaries are based on watersheds and water quality requirements are based on the unique differences in climate, topography, geology and hydrology for each watershed. Each Regional Board makes critical water quality decisions for its region, including setting standards, issuing permits (waste discharge requirements), determining compliance with those requirements, and taking appropriate enforcement actions.

  • California Water Quality Monitoring Council
  • The Clean Water Team Citizen Monitoring Program
    The Clean Water Team supports citizen science, crowdsourcing, STEM for the advancement of watershed protection and restoration. The CWT is a part of the State Water Resources Control Board’s Surface Water Ambient Monitoring Program (SWAMP). The CWT works statewide in order to provide technical assistance and guidance documents, training, QA/QC support, temporary loans of equipment and communication to citizen monitoring programs and watershed stewardship organizations.
  • California Water Quality Monitoring Collaboration Network: 2017 Citizen Monitoring Webinar Series - YouTube Including the Following Webinars: (The following resources were presented as part of a Citizen Monitoring Webinar Series held in 2017 )
    • Utilizing Bioassessments and Citizen Science for Stewardship in the Truckee River Watershed
    • Citizen Science Works for the Recovery of a Wild & Scenic River, its Fisheries, and its Communities
    • The Application of Citizen Monitoring to Inform Citizen and Government Enforcement Actions
    • Urban Tides Community Science Initiative Captures the Future of Our Urban Ocean
    • Snapshot Day Events:  Water Quality Monitoring-Blitz
  • Guidance Compendium for Watershed Monitoring and Assessment
    The purpose of this Compendium is to enhance the user's knowledge and ability to make decisions regarding measurements of water quality in various water bodies. It should be useful to field operators conducting water quality monitoring, technical advisors and trainers of citizen monitoring groups, agency staff, or any other person interested in water quality issues.
  • The Clean Water Team's Tool Box
    This Toolbox has template files and documents that will help you manage and organize your water quality monitoring data. Most of the items are part of the Data Quality Management (DQM) system that the Clean Water Team has developed for the collection management and sharing of reliable data of known quality. The utility of the tools contained within this virtual toolbox will be especially useful as you begin to analyze your project's data.
  • Clean Water Team Videos
    Watch training and educational videos related to water quality monitoring and watershed stewardship.
          Video Playlists

  • Watermarks: The California Newsletter for Citizen Water Quality Monitoring

Selected Resources from the CWT Compendium

Section 1.0 - Introduction and Overview

Section 9.0 - Staff and Volunteers Role-Specific Data Quality Management (DQM) Materials

Crowdsourcing Apps

CreekWatch App


Using FieldScope, enthusiasts work together to share, analyze, and interpret data. Overlaying that data on a geographic mapping tool such as FieldScope helps to identify larger trends and answer important research questions.


Every observation can contribute to biodiversity science, from the rarest butterfly to the most common backyard weed. We share your findings with scientific data repositories like the Global Biodiversity Information Facility to help scientists find and use your data. All you have to do is observe.

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM)

California Department of Education - STEM Introduction

California leads the world in STEM education, inspiring and preparing all of its students to seize the opportunities of the global society through innovation, inquiry, collaboration, and creative problem solving.

California Department of Education - STEM 2014 Task Force Report

The California STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) Service-Learning Initiative supports secondary school and higher education students working together to meet community needs through a STEM design process.

California Regional Environmental Education Community (CREEC)

Administered by the California Department of Education, CREEC  is a communication network supporting the environmental literacy of California's students by providing teachers with access to high quality environmental education resources.

A Blueprint For Environmental Literacy Educating Every California Student In, About, and For the Environment
The Environmental Literacy Task Force developed six essential overarching strategies to achieve environmental literacy for all California students. An environmentally literate person has the capacity to act individually and with others to support ecologically sound, Economically prosperous, and equitable communities for present and future generations. Through lived experiences and education programs that include classroom-based lessons, experiential education, and outdoor learning, students will become environmentally literate, developing the knowledge, skills, and understanding of environmental principles to analyze environmental issues and make informed decisions.

Project WET- California

Project WET (Water Education for Teachers) is an award-winning, nonprofit water education program and publisher. The program facilitates and promotes awareness, appreciation, knowledge, and stewardship of water resources through the dissemination of classroom-ready teaching aids and the establishment of internationally sponsored Project WET programs. The Water Education Foundation is the California Coordinator for Project WET.

Project WILD & Aquatic WILD- California

Project WILD is a wildlife-based conservation and environmental education program that fosters responsible actions toward wildlife and related natural resources. Project WILD activity guides provide curriculum specially designed for educators of kindergarten through high school youth. Professional development training and educational materials are available through workshop participation.

Earth Echo Water Challenge (formerly World Water Monitoring Challenge)

Earth Echo Water Challenge/World Water Monitoring Challenge is an international education and outreach program that builds public awareness and involvement in protecting water resources around the world by engaging citizens to conduct basic monitoring of their local water bodies.

In 2016, a total of 76,790 bodies of water were visited by 1,499,068 participants to monitor sites in 143 countries. We challenge you to test the quality of your waterways, share your findings, and protect our most precious resource!

California Naturalist

The mission of the UC California Naturalist Program is to foster a diverse community of naturalists and promote stewardship of California's natural resources through education and service.

Additional Resources

Federal Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science Toolkit

Federal Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science Community of Practice

National Water Monitoring Council
The offical government website designed to accelerate the use of crowdsourcing and citizen science across the U.S. government.

Citizen Science Association

Environmental Protection Belongs to the Public, A Vision for Citizen Science at EPA

Examples of Participatory Science Projects Supported by EPA

Air Sensor Toolbox for Citizen Scientists, Researchers and Developers

NASA- Citizen Scientists
Home of the NASA Science Mission Directorate's citizen science projects as well as other opportunities for public involvement in NASA's science and technology programs.

Citizen Science Competitive Funding Program

Citizen Science Association
CitSci supports your research by providing tools and resources that allow you to customize your scientific procedure - all in one location on the internet.

Citizen Science GIS
CS-GIS works with communities across the globe to visualize local knowledge through GIS, drones, and collaboration.