Public Lab Research note

Reviewing and refreshing the topic of wastewater

by bhamster , alejobonifacio | July 23, 2021 17:14 23 Jul 17:14 | #27265 | #27265

Lead image: D. Milledge, CC BY

A year after our first research area review on microplastics, we're returning to a water-themed topic this quarter and reviewing wastewater. This includes "used water" created by households, businesses, cities, and industries, and also storm runoff that flows down roadways and parking lots. In some locations, some of this used water is treated (cleaned), and in other locations, it's not! There's a lot of potential to apply well-documented water quality testing tools, and experiment with how different methods can be used locally to research concerns around wastewater and surface runoff pollution.

In the next couple months there will be several events:

  • A research area review kick-off call on Tuesday, July 27, at 12pm PT / 3pm ET / 7pm UTC (during Open Call). Come talk about what we'll do to review the topic of wastewater and how anyone can participate!
  • Weekly drop-in Open Calls from August 3 to September 28, with a wastewater theme.

Then at the end of the research area review period, there's going to be a kind of mini conference (exact dates and times to be announced):

  • A wrap-up event where we'll share what we learned and created during the review.
  • A facilitated open community discussion where people can meet each other and talk about their local concerns, questions, and project ideas around wastewater.
  • A presentation by guest speakers who are locally investigating wastewater in their communities.
  • A live build or tool demonstration with the Public Lab Kits team!

Stay tuned for separate event posts with details and information on how to join these calls.

Frequently Asked Questions

What's the purpose of the review?

We're aiming to make it easier for anyone with a local concern about wastewater to investigate and document their environment and take action. We want to gather, create, and synthesize information on current DIY methods for detecting and documenting wastewater, so that anyone can get started on researching this topic. We also want to figure out what methods are in development, so that folx interested in making tools know where to plug in.

What will we do in the review to reach these goals?

Like previous research area reviews, over the next couple months we'll review materials on and from other published resources, and have conversations with people who have lived and learned experiences with researching wastewater. We'll focus on:

  • Creating DIY activities for detecting and documenting wastewater.
  • Documenting case studies of DIY tools for researching wastewater in action.
  • Collecting and synthesizing information on a collaborative wastewater wiki, highlighting ways to get started with wastewater community science and tool development.
  • Supporting updates to water quality testing projects and tools on the Public Lab website.

We'd also welcome and appreciate any and all contributions that others might be interested in!

When will we do the review?

From now until the end of September 2021

Why did we choose wastewater as a topic to review?

After a year of research area reviews at Public Lab, we've cycled through topics related to water, air, soil, and organizing and advocacy. We're returning to a water-related topic and focusing on an area that several community members are actively investigating.

What are some ways to help or follow along?

  • Follow the #wastewater and #water-quality tags on and receive updates about new posts.
  • Do you have knowledge, experiences, or stories to share on wastewater? Please comment below to join our review!
  • Join us on a call! The kick-off meeting and weekly Open Calls are opportunities to share questions and ideas during the review period.

Follow wastewater Follow water quality Follow research area review


@bhamster has marked @alejobonifacio as a co-author.

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