Water Canary is working to eliminate the organizational and financial barriers that keep real-time water quality information out of reach. We believe that better information is the key to better management of the world’s most precious resource, and that people empowered with knowledge are better equipped to identify and solve their own problems.
By taking a transparent and practical approach to building a real-time map of global water-quality conditions, we are attempting to build for water in the 21st century an early warning system that is similar to the forecasting systems built for weather in the 20th century.
Until now, water testing technologies have only provided an incomplete picture of water quality conditions. The time and resources required to collect samples, administer tests, report results and verify their accuracy, have ensured that very few tests are performed, and that available information only offers perspective in hindsight. In spite of developments that have boosted the precision of testing solutions in recent decades, we still live in a world where very little water quality information exists. This means that most unsafe water is only discovered after it’s too late – when we’ve passed the point at which actions could have been taken to prevent isolated hazards from growing into much larger problems that can take years to recover from.
Far greater potential lies in information that can provide earlier warnings, yet with existing testing solutions, comprehensive water monitoring remains too expensive and too complicated an endeavor for even large-scale organizations like the EPA, the USGS and the UN’s Water & Sanitation cluster.
Water Canary’s hardware and data services present a better way to see extreme situations soon enough to prevent them from getting worse. Although water safety depends on so many different factors, we are taking an incremental approach that draws inspiration from the early days of national weather services. Before we had the ability to predict – with reasonable accuracy – daily and weekly weather patterns, weather services focused primarily on storms, because they created the most severe problems. In so doing, we prevented food shortages, protected ships at sea, saved countless lives, and laid a foundation that enabled commercial air travel.
Although weather services are not infallible, we think they demonstrate that we don’t need perfect foresight to prevent catastrophes and make better decisions. It’s for this reason that we’re not trying to build the world’s most precise water testing solution: we’re focused on making the world’s most effective solution.