Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

, Volume 185, Issue 12, pp 10297–10316 | Cite as

A systems approach to modeling Community-Based Environmental Monitoring: a case of participatory water quality monitoring in rural Mexico

  • Ana Burgos
  • Rosaura Páez
  • Estela Carmona
  • Hilda Rivas


Community-Based Environmental Monitoring (CBM) is a social practice that makes a valuable contribution to environmental management and construction of active societies for sustainable future. However, its documentation and analysis show deficiencies that hinder contrast and comparison of processes and effects. Based on systems approach, this article presents a model of CBM to orient assessment of programs, with heuristic or practical goals. In a focal level, the model comprises three components, the social subject, the object of monitoring, and the means of action, and five processes, data management, social learning, assimilation/decision making, direct action, and linking. Emergent properties were also identified in the focal and suprafocal levels considering community self-organization, response capacity, and autonomy for environmental management. The model was applied to the assessment of a CBM program of water quality implemented in rural areas in Mexico. Attributes and variables (indicators) for components, processes, and emergent properties were selected to measure changes that emerged since the program implementation. The assessment of the first 3 years (2010–2012) detected changes that indicated movement towards the expected results, but it revealed also the need to adjust the intervention strategy and procedures. Components and processes of the model reflected relevant aspects of the CBM in real world. The component called means of action as a key element to transit “from the data to the action.” The CBM model offered a conceptual framework with advantages to understand CBM as a socioecological event and to strengthen its implementation under different conditions and contexts.


Water quality Community-based research System research Emergent properties Tropical dry lands 



The authors thank the Grupo Balsas A.C. for the joint work to implement the program “Bajo Balsas Community-Based Water-Quality Monitoring.” Also, we are grateful to all peasants, local authorities, and community technicians for their efforts and dedication to this program and the improvement of management of the water sources. Hugo Zavala and Francisco Sanchez managed the design and commissioning online of the web portal for the administration and management of data. We also thank Gerardo Bocco and Manuel Maass for review of a draft version of this manuscript. This project was developed with funding from the Fondo Mixto CONACYT-Michoacán (Project FOMIX 115454) in 2010–2011 and sustained with the continuous support of the Fundacion Gonzalo Rio Arronte (FGRA) through the Grupo Balsas.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ana Burgos
    • 1
  • Rosaura Páez
    • 1
  • Estela Carmona
    • 1
  • Hilda Rivas
    • 1
  1. 1.Centro de Investigaciones en Geografía AmbientalUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoMorelia, MichoacánMexico

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