Before we tell you about the scientific process, test your knowledge below.


Activity: Click and drag to arrange these scientific steps in order.
The box will turn green when your answer is correct.

Collect data
Analyse data
Review hypothesis
Design experiment


We know that availability of clean water is becoming an increasing challenge. We want to know:
What can be done to help improve water quality and availability for the future?

Formulate a hypothesis
This is often the start of the scientific process - a question. To answer our question we need to understand:

  • What helps freshwater ecosystems to remain healthy?

  • What factors most affect freshwater ecosystems?

  • How can we protect them from degradation and loss?

Read about the specific research questions FreshWater Watch is investigating.

By asking the right questions, we can formulate hypotheses, suggesting a possible answer to the question or explanation of events. Then we need to design methods to investigate these hypotheses.

Design an experiment and collect data
We have set up a network of freshwater experts in major cities around the world to collect data about freshwater ecosystems in all types of waterbodies - not just the big ones! Local lakes, garden ponds and city streams all have clues as to why water quality is changing.

The research project uses consistent methods for collecting data so that we can find out:

  • The condition of the ecosystem at each site being monitored e.g. how healthy it is

  • How the ecosystems change over time, such as the change in the population levels of plants and animals, or changes in the amount and speed of water in the waterbody

  • What might be affecting the ecosystem, locally and further upstream, e.g. urban or agricultural runoff.

Find out more information about the research methods used in FreshWater Watch.

Analyse data and review the hypothesis
When enough data has been collected, scientists can analyse the results to see if their hypotheses are correct and if they have the answers to their original questions. If not, perhaps we need to do more research - new questions and additional data, and the scientific process starts again.


Nutrient loading in Lake Erie

How does water quality monitoring have an impact?
Large bodies of water have been monitored for some time with significant results. Lake Erie is a particularly interesting case because it is both a success story of the great changes that have been brought about on the basis of scientific research, but also highlights the importance of continuing to monitor waterbodies, as they can ‘relapse’.

To find out more about this, read the blog by our researcher Nate Drag.

Many scientists and governments understand the importance of monitoring large bodies of water, but the smaller waterbodies tend not to be monitored. This is one of the reasons why FreshWater Watch is focusing on small waterbodies.

The impact of FreshWater Watch
It is projected that FreshWater Watch will produce data collected from more than 35,000 locations around the world, most of which have never previously been studied.

FreshWater Watch scientists anticipate that data will be published in more than 30 scientific publications and make a huge contribution to the protection of water quality and supply. By sharing the findings with policymakers, non-governmental organisations and businesses worldwide, we can play our part in tackling one of the greatest challenges of our time, that of securing a sustainable source of freshwater.


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