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Antoni Caparrós Prize to RiuNet: Citizen science and awareness for a better quality in rivers

Narcís Prat.

Narcís Prat.



Any person with a smartphone and Internet access can collaborate in research, management and preservation of rivers thanks to RiuNet, a phone app on citizen science developed by the Freshwater Ecology and Management Research Group (FEM) of the Water Research Institute (IdRA) of the UB. This interactive tool, awarded with the Antoni Caparrós Prize to the best project on knowledge transfer, technology and innovation, allows users to know more about the fluvial ecosystems and at the same time, assess their ecological quality and water state in a simple, fun and rigorous way.

Using several indicators, such as the presence of a gallery forest, lack of water flow, whether there is waste, or the organisms that live in the ecosystem, users can assess aspects such as the hydro-morphological, biological and hydrological quality of the rivers, key factors in the management of these ecosystems. This information is confirmed by the researchers, and later on it is available for experts and water managers such as the Catalan Water Agency (ACA) and the Júcar Hydrographic Confederation (CHX), as well as other people interested in the project.

These data have a high value, since they can complete the information collected by the administration, which monitors the ecological quality, but in certain time periods and certain spots. Thanks to the answers from people, an improvement can be made regarding the knowledge of the ecological status of the river traces that are not evaluated regularly by the water administration or during a different time –other than that of the monitoring protocol. Also, other environmental problems and improvements can be detected after having applied some management measurement.
With this interactive format, RiuNet gets people closer to the nature and therefore they can learn about water ecosystems. Moreover, it eases the relation between administration and citizenship and the participation in environmental decision-taking.
RiuNet project has been coordinated by the researcher and UB professor of Ecology Narcís Prat, and has the collaboration of the Institute of Environmental Assessment and Water Research (IDEA-CSIC). The RiuNet app has been developed with the collaboration of the Scientific Culture and Innovation Unit (UCC+i) from the Communication Area of the UB. At first, the project received funds from the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology (FECYT) – Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness and aids from the Barcelona City Council. It also received an aid from RecerCaixa to fund the server and necessary maintenance to receive and manage data sent by the users. The current version has been funded by the European project called LIFE TRivers (LIFE13 ENV/ES/000341). 
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