Measuring the unseen: mobilizing citizen scientists to monitor groundwater in Nepal.
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Groundwater-level monitoring provides crucial information on the nature and status of aquifers and their response to stressors like climate change, groundwater extraction, and land use changes. Therefore, the development of a spatially distributed long-term monitoring network is indispensable for sustainable groundwater resource management. Despite being one of our greatest unseen resources, groundwater systems are too often poorly understood, ineffectively managed, and unsustainably used. This study investigates the feasibility of establishing a groundwater monitoring network mobilizing citizen scientists. We established a network of 45 shallow monitoring wells in the Kathmandu Valley using existing wells. We recruited 75% of the citizen scientists through personal connections and the rest through outreach programs at academic institutes and site visits. We used various methods to encourage citizen scientists to complete regular measurements and solicited feedback from them based on their experiences. Citizen scientists were more consistent during the monsoon season (June through September) than non-monsoon seasons. The depth-to-water below the ground surface varied from-0.11m (negative sign represents a groundwater level higher than the ground surface) to 11.5m, with a mean of 4.07m and standard deviation of 2.63m. Groundwater levels began to rise abruptly with the onset of monsoon season and the shallowest and the deepest groundwater levels were recorded in peak rainfall months and dry months respectively. Citizen science-based groundwater monitoring using existing wells would be an economic and sustainable approach for groundwater monitoring. Improved groundwater-level data will provide essential information for understanding the shallow groundwater system of the valley, which will assist concerned authorities in planning and formulating evidence-based policy on sustainable groundwater management.