By Tyler Carlson, and Alice Cohen
This paper examines the relationships between Community-Based Water Monitoring (CBM) and government-led water initiatives. Drawing on a cross-Canada survey of over one hundred organizations, we explore the reasons why communities undertake CBM, the monitoring protocols they follow, and the extent to which CBM program members feel their findings are incorporated into formal (i.e., government-led) decision-making processes. Our results indicate that despite following standardized and credible monitoring protocols, fewer than half of CBM organizations report that their data is being used to inform water policy at any level of government. Moreover, respondents report higher rates of cooperation and data-sharing between CBM organizations themselves than between CBM organizations and their respective governments. These findings are significant, because many governments continue to express support for CBM. We explore the barriers between CBM data collection and government policy, and suggest that structural barriers include lack of multi-year funding, inconsistent protocols, and poor communication. More broadly, we argue that the distinction between formal and informal programming is unclear, and that addressing known CBM challenges will rely on a change in perception: CBM cannot simply be a less expensive alternative to government-driven data collection.