This project will use and build on The Watershed Project’s water quality database and visualization platform (https://app.thewatershedproject.org/), previously funded by the California Watershed Protection Fund in 2018, to explore water quality in West Contra Costa County, CA (WCCC) in greater depth. We will expand the parameters we sample to include data related to homeless encampments, continue to collect baseline data that will be used to identify trends, and will use the visualization app as an educational tool to engage policy makers, community members, and youth. Working with our local partner groups, this multi-benefit project engages environmental justice challenges facing WCCC communities. These include the need for reliable water quality data for local creeks, the opportunity to address water quality concerns facing creeks in the area, and the opportunity to involve local schools for hands-on learning. Through these three prongs, we will gather and input quality open source data to our “Explore Contra Costa Creeks” database that decision makers can use in developing effective public policy, and a variety of stakeholder groups can use for advocacy and education tools.
First, we want to take this database tool to local groups in each watershed and identify where we can provide more value. Next, an item of growing and urgent community concern in WCCC is the increasing number of homeless encampments on creeks and waterways, which may pose a threat to water quality downstream. We propose to collect and analyze fecal coliform samples from stretches of creek above and below these encampments. If we find an impact to the health of the creek, we hope to use the data to advocate for better housing alternatives and/or better waste and toilet facilities for those facing homelessness. Third, we will also begin a creek-oriented environmental education campaign with local schools, getting students out in the creeks and contributing data to our project.