GWW was born in response to a need of implementing a world wide network of community-based water monitoring (CBWM) groups. It came to GWW’s attention that scientists, citizens, news media and other sources were sounding the global water crisis alarm with an increasing intensity. This crisis is a complex and multi-faceted problem with political, economic, technological, geographical and educational components. However, the unavoidable outcome of this crisis is very simple and straightforward, namely that people, particularly in the developing world, do not have access to the quantity and quality of water they need. This condition results largely from inadequate protection of water resources and lack of conservation practices on watersheds. In order to stop and ultimately reverse the degradation of the world’s watersheds, watershed management plans need to be developed by local community groups who are living on these watersheds. Describing and monitoring the physicochemical and biological characteristics of surface waters should be goals of every watershed management plan.These activities can quantitatively measure the condition of aquatic environments via parameters such as stream sediment load, patterns of runoff, oxygen levels and aquatic biodiversity.
Dr. Bill Deutsch foresaw the potential of the CBWM approach and how it could possibly surpass what government agencies, universities and other research organizations were currently able to do. Citizen groups can reach a greater number of sites, collect a greater number of samples, sample with greater frequency and responsibility and also find water quality trends once the data is integrated in an efficient database. All this can be done by citizens who sometimes are literally monitoring in their own backyard. GWW attempts to maximize the potential of citizen groups by training and equipping the residents of the watershed in order to take an active part in stream surveys and monitoring programs that will provide baseline water resource data. Once collected, this information can be presented in a variety of forms that can be accessible by multiple interest groups, including teachers, policy-makers, the scientific community and the public in general.