Most of us will have heard that canaries used to be used in coal mines as an early warning system to alert miners that the level of toxic fumes and carbon monoxide was dangerous. The toxins would kill the canaries, who would usually sing in the mine, thus alerting the miners there was a problem.
Water-borne diseases kill thousands of people each year, in fact, according to the World Health Organisation, 3.5 million people die annually due to water-borne diseases. 3.5 million!
Water Canary has brought together the idea of crowd-sourcing, information sharing, and technology to improve our ability to understand what water sources are contaminated. The idea behind Water Canary is to crowd-source water quality information and bring together the data in a way that can help monitor/predict different disease outbreaks like cholera. By collecting real-time data, the outbreaks should be able to be managed more effectively as there is higher quality information available to decision makers.
Of course, there will always be an element of judgment required on the decision maker’s part, but with better information, hopefully we have better results. As the Water Canary website states:
“By placing real-time water quality information within reach, the devices make it possible to quickly identify invisible threats so that appropriate actions can be taken to protect people and ecosystems and prevent hazards from erupting into full-scale emergencies.”