CHELSEA — State Representative Gretchen Driskell (D-Saline) held a press conference today to discuss a bipartisan bill she introduced that would establish CrowdHydrology citizen science in Michigan. This program serves to engage the public in surface-water monitoring through the installation of stream staff gages in our state’s watersheds. The bill, HB 5043, will allow stream gages, which are often costly and difficult to obtain a permit for, to be placed in the state’s watersheds without a permit.

“Michigan has the opportunity to be a leader in utilizing the benefits of crowdsourcing hydrologic data,” Driskell said. “By removing the cost barrier, we are opening the door for organizations to gather necessary data that is critical to monitoring our watershed patterns, at no cost to the state.”

CrowdHydrology is a new and interactive program that is run in partnership with the U.S. Geological Survey, for scientists to collect data across the country. Staff gages are placed in inland lakes, streams and creeks, in high-traffic parks or hiking trails. Each gage instructs passersby to send the current water height via text message to a number listed on the gage.

“Data collected from these staff gages would provide the state of Michigan an effortless method to obtain information about stream flow and water quality in the state,” said John Bartholic, director of MSU’s Institute of Water Research. “Unfortunately, many organizations in the state have hit barriers with the permitting process, stalling the growth of the program.”

The CrowdHydrology model supports the 2015 MDEQ Water Strategy recommendation of creating an integrated water-based monitoring system. The strategy details the methods that best work to protect Michigan’s lakes and streams and recommends a multi-faceted approach.

“With this legislation, we are empowering citizens to engage in community-based collaborative conservation,” said Lisa Brush, executive director of The Stewardship Network. “It is important that we address conservation issues like water quality and patterns, one property at a time at a scale that is personal to those involved.”