project leader
Donald B
155 Powder House Blvd
(Porter Square)
latest update rss
Thank you to our donors!

the project

What happens to all of the salt placed on the roads in winter -- does it pollute our drinking water, or harm local wildlife? How do we know if there are unsafe levels of waterborne bacteria in the river?

The Mystic River faces serious water quality challenges, including leaky sewer pipes, waste disposal sites, fuel hydrocarbons, and road salt; it received a ‘D’ on its 2012 US EPA water quality report card. The Alewife Brook subwatershed is one of the most contaminated water bodies in Boston.

Current water quality sensors cost hundreds (often thousands) of dollars, and use proprietary data formats -- making widespread monitoring expensive and difficult. It’s hard for local residents to gather data on their own.

With your help, we’re going to develop an ‘open source’ water quality monitoring platform that will cost far less, and will be open for communities everywhere to build and use.

The Public Lab community is partnering with the Mystic River Watershed Association, the Massachusetts Water Resources Research Center, Plymouth State, and UNH to develop:

To be successful, we’ll need your support. Donations go to Public Lab, a 501(c)(3) non-profit.

We’ll use any funds we receive beyond our goal to deploy additional sensors in the Mystic River watershed and at other sites in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New Orleans.

the steps

  1. Host an initial water quality Q&A in Somerville, in order to produce a prioritized list of water quality questions that matter most to the community.

  2. Develop and deploy our first water quality monitor prototypes in the Alewife Brook subwatershed with the goal of answering some of the questions raised in the workshop.​

  3. Present a summer water quality ‘camp’ to a small group of students at Parts and Crafts in Somerville, MA, and collaborate with them on improving the prototype design and data visualizations.​​

  4. Host a follow-up water quality workshop to plan our next steps, including installing sensors at partner locations: at the Fort River in Amherst, MA, and with a citizen science monitoring network in New Hampshire, and with our partners in New Orleans.

why we're doing it

The Mystic River in Massachusetts flows from the Mystic Lakes in Winchester and Arlington, through Medford, Somerville, Everett, Charlestown and Chelsea, and into Boston Harbor, and has supported a long history of economic progress in one of the most densely populated urban areas of New England. Today, portions of the watershed often fail to meet state bacteria standards for swimming and boating. Several organizations are engaged in water monitoring projects for the Mystic, but the high cost and ‘closed data’ nature of current technology severely limits the scope of current efforts, and makes data sharing difficult. Public Lab has extensive experience developing open platforms for low-cost aerial imagery, DIY spectroscopy, and infrared plant health analysis; by designing a low-cost, ‘open source’ water quality monitor that is easy to build and maintain, we’ll greatly expand the scope of current monitoring efforts, and enable communities to develop their own grassroots monitoring networks.


Awesome project, good luck!!
Don - thank you for getting this started. I am really excited about the opportunity to augment the monitoring already happening at the Mystic River and engage a whole new set of volunteers. This should be a lot of fun. Count me in as a supporter. cheers.


- Food and materials for two grassroots ‘stakeholders’ workshops: $400

- Teacher stipends for summer ‘water camp’ workshops: $1000

- Prototyping water quality monitor hardware (development + final 10 sensors): $1548

- Prototyping wireless water quality data transmission: $212

- Prototyping an underwater ‘fish cam’: $408

- Support for hardware and software development, ~202 hours at $20 / hr: $4,040

Total: $7,608


SUBTOTAL = $7,608
ioby Platform Fee  $35
3rd Party Credit Card Processing Fee (3%) $228

RAISED = $1,056
ioby Platform Fee  $35
3rd Party Credit Card Processing Fee (3%) $30

Revised Budget, 4/7/2014

- Prototyping water quality monitor hardware (development + final 10
sensors): $1548

The $991 will cover most of the hardware, and will allow us to build at least a few prototype
sensors to send out to our partners.



Thank you to our donors!


This is where photos will go once we build flickr integration


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