CLEVELAND, Ohio — There’s hope of improving water quality and creating a consistently healthy Lake Erie. Cleveland Metroparks, in partnership with Cleveland Water Alliance and communities around Lake Erie, is launching a three-year project — the “Smart Citizen Science Initiative.”

What You Need To Know

  • Smart Citizen Science Initiative is a three-year project that empowers residents near Lake Erie to help monitor water quality

  • The water will be monitored using 3D-printed, inexpensive devices called spectrometers

  • These devices are currently being used by Cleveland Metroparks volunteer monitoring program and in seven Lake Erie communities as part of a 2020 pilot

  • Using the online platform "Water Reporter," there will be a more unified data set regionally for years to come

  • Organizers say more consistent and unified data across the region can lead to solutions for water quality problems

“These different groups, watersheds, metroparks, government entities don’t have the resources oftentimes to have paid staff do all of this work and there is a really robust community of people in this region that want to contribute their time to support their water resources. And this is one of the most impactful ways that people can do that,” said Max Herzog, program manager for Cleveland Water Alliance.

The Initiative plans to empower and involve residents. With low-cost, 3D-printed, simple technology called a Spectrometer, they’ll monitor water quality and contribute to more regionally unified data collection.

“This is the pilot year, so we're trying to work with them getting acclimated to the new device in trying to figure out standardized protocols,” said Breoni Turner, citizen science assistant for Cleveland Metroparks.

The spectrometers distributed through this program can measure phosphates and nitrates known to cause harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie and negatively impact the economy and health of surrounding communities.

“Monitoring for these nutrients is a really important step towards understanding the dynamics that are driving our harmful algal blooms as well as trying to assess the effectiveness of different projects that might reduce the nutrients that are going into our lake,” said Herzog.

School-age children, volunteer groups and others may help identify sources of pollution by taking readings with the spectrometer.

“It's really easy. You just go grab a sample and then you take it home and just process it on your own time. Really anyone can do it once you get trained. It's not, not too difficult,” said volunteer Kevin Harrison.

Program manager for Cleveland Water Alliance said many partner organizations have been relying on physical data sheets to manage their data. The initiative’s new online platform — Water Reporter — will ensure everyone’s data is more easily managed, quality assured and quality controlled.

“By bringing everyone together on the same data platform we take a big step toward having, you know, all of the disparate data sets that each group are collecting become more of an integrated data set that can be used for regional level management,” said Herzog.

Giving citizens influence over their natural resources, Herzog said this initiative could position Lake Erie and its communities as a leader in finding inexpensive solutions for water monitoring.

“We’d really like to see this level of dedication to addressing this issue persist and result in some substantive outcomes,” said Herzog.

Anyone wanting to get involved may directly reach out to Herzog at