Forms and Contributors Overview

Dive deep into data collection via forms and the folks that add the data

Commons Support avatar
Written by Commons Support
Updated over a week ago

Forms afford you a way to streamline your data collection process, consolidate your program’s data, simplify data QA/QC, and include volunteers in the data collection process. Since the form is part of Water Reporter and your custom data source, all of the data that is entered through a form seamlessly enters the data source as well as any visualizations that you’ve already set up for this source. That’s a long-winded way of saying that forms help you simplify your data management process - one of our favorite goals throughout the platform.

The form set up is partially put on rails so that by the time you arrive at your Forms tab, some choices and fields have already been completed. In fact, the first steps take place when you select your data source type. “Use Fixed Stations” or “Collect on-the-fly locations” are your two options for User-Managed data and have direct implications for both form structure and possibilities for data visualizations.

Stations and Parameters also directly tie into your Form before you even arrive on the page. This is important to note first because - isn’t it great when you get work done without lifting extra fingers? And second because the system works best when you complete tasks in order - please complete tasks in order. Build your stations and parameters list and then go on to polish off your form.

That’s a great segway into all of the ‘stuff’ we’re going to cover in this lesson.

This lesson is broken down into some key components to forms: form location type, relationship to parameters, allowable field types, editing fields and order, adding contributors, and verifying samples. That’s a lot of stuff, so let’s get started!


When you create your Data Source you selected either Fixed Stations or On-the-fly locations as the location type. Fixed stations will allow users to insert data into the data source for, you guessed it, specific locations. Data collected at specific locations lends itself to amassing a repository over time, which results in trendlines and systematic analysis. How does this all play out on the visualizations? The system feeds fixed station readings through station cards. This lends itself to displaying trendlines and indicators for each parameter. The limitation is that you can only display quantitative results. So if you elect to add non-quantitative fields to your collection form they will not appear on your map unless you assign them a numerical value.

On-the-fly locations operate a bit differently. This data source more easily displays non-quantitative fields because each sample appears as a single point on the map. At this time, the pop-up does not have any indicators tied to the readings, but every data point will include all readings within the submitted sample.


As you’re beginning to see, there is a large degree of interconnectedness within the Water Reporter features and components. In terms of parameters and forms, that relationship is more important than most, especially for fixed location monitoring.

The important takeaway that we want you to have from this relationship is that any data that you want displayed on your station cards must be entered into your Parameters list not directly into your Form. There is no way to convert a form field into a parameter after it has been created.

Not sure which fields are parameters? Check for the “Enable” toggle. If a field has an “Enabled” toggle that’s your clue that it’s a parameter. You can change the name of the parameter label and it will still tie to the original parameter, but the relationship may be less clear to the data owners.


Once you have built your parameters list and you’re ready to add in additional collection fields, you have a lot of choices. To get started you will click the Green “+” circle on the form page to Add a field. You will add a Label Here is a list of the data types you can add to a form and instructions/tips for each:

Date is helpful if you and your contributors are submitting samples after completing the monitoring activity or if there are multiple steps to track, such as chain of custody and lab time

Decimal for quantitative readings

Document Uploads! Handy if you have folks continuing to use paper forms but you’re dedicated to consolidating your data into one location.

Enumeration This is a fancy word for lists. Create your list using commas. Contributors will then be able to select their answer from the drop down of options.

Image Take a photo directly or upload one from your photo library.

Text Great option to add notes or comments

Whole Number Does not allow for decimals.

All of the parameters will appear as decimal fields. While you can go in to edit the parameter in the form, please make sure not to change the field type!


All fields in your form are defaulted to “optional” and enabled (for parameters). At any time a data owner can edit a field by click on the edit icon, move the order of the fields by dragging a field by the = icon, change the status to “required”.

You can also add instructions to each form field, which is a great way to help guide your contributors through the data entry process. General instructions appear at the top of the page and then field-specific instructions appear below the entry field.

Another important option is public/private field settings. Also accessible through the edit pathway, data owners may want to limit the number of fields that the data contributors can access, even if the owners have more fields that need to be completed.


Once you have your form set up you can start giving non-owners access to the form. Non-owners are referred to as Contributors in Water Reporter. At this time, in order for an individual to access the form he or she will need to:

  1. Create a Water Reporter Basic User Account. - make sure to include a first and last name

  2. Join the Group

From the Contributor Tab, a Group Administrator Owner will then be able to search for the user and add them to the list.

Once an individual is added as a contributor a link to the form will appear on their mobile app and online via the personal dashboard.

You should not add data owners as a contributor. The data source form will automatically appear in the submission option for all Administrative Owners on dashboards and submission panels.


Quality Assurance and Control is important in Water Reporter. Because any data that is submitted into a data source is immediately visible on any publicly embedded maps developed by the Account Owners, it’s important to allow owners an opportunity to review data submitted to their group before it gets shared and published.

The account owners will notice a queue of “Pending Samples” on the Data Source Summary page. These are samples that were submitted by an approved contributor. The Owner will want to click in to the pending sample to certify its authenticity. Once the certification is toggled ‘on’ the sample is fully integrated into the data source. If the Owner wants to change any of the samples, the system will allow those changes to be made here. Any “private” fields also appear in the sample review. For instance, it might be helpful to add a “notes” field that is only viewable to the data owners so that you can record any changes and comments.

If you come across a sample that you don’t want to push into the data source, you can delete it altogether. There will be no log of it in the system, however.

One more important item of note - samples submitted by data source owners do not go through the verification process. The system immediately feeds the owner submitted samples directly into the data source. If you want to put in the stop measure for owners too, you’ll need to have them create a separate ‘basic user’ account with a different name.

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