Community Scientific Research Project Addresses Food Safety and Security in Arizona

Globe — What is Project Harvest?

Dr. Mónica Ramírez-Andreotta, assistant professor in the University of Arizona Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science (SWES), is leading a study designed to work alongside rural and urban gardeners to analyze the safety and quality of water collected through rainwater harvesting systems. The project entitled, “Advancing Informal STEM Literacy & Learning: Co-Created Citizen Science Rainwater Harvesting in Underserved Communities” will be funded for five years (2016 – 2021) though the National Science Foundation. For short, the program is called: “Project Harvest”. Rainwater harvesting is legal in Arizona and known to prevent soil erosion in semi-arid regions, control storm water runoff, and is a form of water conservation and environmental stewardship. To the best of our knowledge, this is one of the first comprehensive studies in the state of AZ investigating the quality of harvested rainwater and its potential effects on soil and plants.

Project Harvest is a co-created citizen science project! Together, we will monitor the quality of harvested water, soil, and plants while learning more about our environmental health.  As a participant, you will: 

Learn how to collect samples from your garden for analyses

Learn about potential pollutants (microorganisms, inorganics/metals, and organic compounds) that might impact soil, plant and human health

Meet others in your community who are interested in environmental and food quality

How does Project Harvest Work?

Using a peer-education model, our University of Arizona research team has trained local community members in Tucson, Dewey-Humboldt, Hayden-Winkelman, and Globe/Miami. After completing the 20-hour training in environmental monitoring and sustainability, these educators are now ready to train community members and provide the materials needed to rigorously sample water, soil, and plant samples. After you are trained, you will work with traditional laboratory (LAB) supplies and Do-It-Yourself (DIY) gear to monitor your environment. Sample collection will begin in Winter 2017 and run through Winter 2020. YOU and University of Arizona researchers will analyze samples! Data will be interpreted and shared with all participants yearly.

What is my role in Project Harvest?

You are part of the team! The work you do, and the samples you collect will be used in a rigorous scientific study to determine the quality of your harvested water, soil, and garden vegetables. As a participant, you will be asked to collect a water sample four times a year; soil and plant samples once a year for three years. Each sampling may take around 30-60 minutes. Your participation will be kept private; every effort will be made to keep your study-related information confidential. Project Harvest is looking forward to sharing and discussing the results with participants yearly. However, participants can decide that they do NOT want their individual results and still participate in the study and receive the summary of results, but not their individual data.

Want to learn more about your harvested water, soil & plant quality?

Join Project Harvest! Contact your local community health worker at and/or email [email protected] 


Gaston, TL. 2010. Rainwater Harvesting in the Southwestern United States - A policy review of the Four Corners States. Available at: Accessed on 31 October 2017. 

Sharma, A, Cook S, Gardner T, Tjandraatmadja G. 2016. Rainwater tanks in modern cities: a review of current practices and research. Journal of Water and Climate Change, 7 (3). 445 - 466. doi:10.2166/wcc.2016.039.


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