“by the way, what is polluted and what is clean?”

“by being able to monitor the environment ourselves, we de-mystify the work of scientists”

“does all water for human use have to be immaculate?”


㊌ Pacco-test (2013-17)


» a water testing unit to measure the quality of pond water in urban areas


There is something paradoxical about water in cities: on the one hand it falls from the sky and is freely available in rivers, canals and fountains; on the other people are prepared to pay more for water than for fuel. The reason is obvious: public water can be polluted and one does not take risk with health. But is water really that polluted? Are we not frightened into suspecting all un-packaged water by water-bottlers? And, by the way, what is polluted and what is clean?

Testing the quality of water is most often left to scientific experts in government institutions, universities and large companies. They dispose of expensive and complex equipment, specialised training and own agendas they need to meet. Because the environment as such is already a complicated system, and made even more so by human intervention, this expertise plays a crucial role in our daily lives. Scientific analysis is crucial in the development of legislation for human activity impact control on the environment and our health.

Being able to monitor the environment ourselves, we de-mystify the work of scientist. Understanding­ leads to knowledge and along with knowledge comes the power to make decisions that increase the quality of our lives, to pay less for water that does not have to be of the highest quality for every use, and to signal pollution in local surface water and make data available to scientists who study changes in water quality.


The idea

The Pacco-test emerged from City Mine(d)’s action EauPropre I ProperWater in the summer of 2012. This aimed at confronting those involved with the technical character of water storage and purification, as well as with the not always founded fear of the wider public for unbottled water.

The technical character of water is translated in the way it is managed in the city: purification, distribution and evacuation require heavy infrastructure. The pressure on this system is often unnecessarily increased but the general use of drinking water, even at times when a lower quality would suffice. On top of that, rain in cities is often evacuated through the sewage system, rather than by means of natural infiltration.

As said, the wider public’s fear of water has to do with pollution – meaning river and canal swimmers are often labelled as desperado’s – , but also with a health concern that creates the impression that all water for human consumption has to be immaculate.

Both cases are caused by the lack of knowledge about water in gene­ral, and about the local source in particular. Together with a group of scientists, a solution was searched for an awareness-raising campaign about water. A first version would use test strips to measure the quality of water and allow the user to roughly ­estimate the quality of following a flow chart.

The strips proved highly inaccurate, making the data useless for the scientists involved. Therefore, work started on an electronic test-kit. Based on an Arduino microprocessor and affordable sensors, a kit was compiled, the Pacco-test, that can measure the quality of water and store it in its memory.


The Pacco-test suitcase to be

The Pacco-test eventually will become a small case with 5 probes for testing the quality of surface water, and translating the outcomes to parameters for everyone to understand. It measures conductivity (amount of particles dissolved in water), acidity (water’s Ph), temperature, dissolved oxygen and oxygen level (amount of oxygen and oxidants in water).

Individuals, groups, schools or neighbourhood associations will be able to borrow the little case, allowing themselves to have a better­ indication of the health of a local pond or stream. A geotag puts every measurement on a map which in turn will be available online. Thus every test contributes to localizing water in the city, as well as to a clearer picture of its quality. Meanwhile a database is created, aiding the work of researchers studying surface water.

The Pacco-test combines awareness­-raising with accessible technology and citizen science. The lasting impact is user’s awareness of the quality of local surface water, the impulse for them to no longer water plants and wash bicycles with drinking water and the dataset made available to scientists. Repeated use of the Pacco-test can reveal an evolution over time, and it can help identify sources of pollution.


The name Pacco in Pacco-test

Although the name Pacco in Pacco-test stands for Ph, Aquatic oxidation potential, Conductivity, Celsius and Oxygen, it bears suspicious resemblance to Antoine Pacco’s last name. He is the chemist at the origin of this citizen-science initiative.

A prototype of the Pacco-test probes were tested by the public in May 2013 during the Biodiversity Parcours organised by the Royal Belgian Institute for Natural Sciences (RBINS). On the occasion 20 water points in the Europena neighbourhood were sampled and tested. A fully functioning version of the Pacco-test is due in the autumn of 2013.


Contributed to the Pacco-test:

Antoine Pacco, Guy Vanbelle, Annemie Maes, Carole Paleco, Kevin De Bondt, City Mine(d), Research in Brussels, Natacha Brion / VUB, Bob Motté, Matthieu Melcot.



14.12.2016 :: The Battle :: Pacco-test vs. University probes sorry!
This section is not translated in English (yet)
12.12.2016 :: Pacco-launch Flagey Press coverage & photo report  »
Pacco-lab phase 2 :: Flagey sorry!
This section is not translated in English (yet)
Pilote Meeting #2 :: minutes Read here: the report of the first Pilote meeting (24.10.2016) »
Pacco-launch :: pictures & meeting-minutes Read here (in French): the report of the first Pilote meeting (19.09.2016)

images: © Michael De Lausnay
Pacco-test-Automatique CALL TO USERS

the autonomous version of the Pacco-test needs a testing ground


㊌ Pacco-test :: description 2013-15 Everybody scientist !  

The Pacco-test (in construction) will be a small case with 5 testing probes that measure the quality of surface water and translate it to parameters everybody can understand. The future case can be borrowed and will give the user a good indication of the health of a local pond or stream. By means of a geo-tag, each test will be represented on a map. As such, each use of the Pacco-test will contribute to the discovery of surface water in the city and of its quality. Meanwhile it creates a data-base that will be able to help researchers in their study of surface water.

Pacco-test sur Senne sorry!
This section is not translated in English (yet)
UPDATE 23.12.2015 :: THE PACCO-TEST IS GETTING INTO ACTION - - - - - - - - - - - --- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - --
Dear friends of the Pacco-test,
Chers amis du Pacco-test,
Beste vrienden van de Pacco-test,
- - - - - - - - - - - - - -- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

. campaigning on the Senne and the Canal,
. in tandem with a professional monitoring station on the Senne,
. as a measuring device for research on the Woluwe. »
08.04.2015 :: Pacco-Walk 001 Dear friends of the Pacco-test,

Tomorrow, 8 april - a cloudy but dry spring Wednesday -  we are taking the Pacco-test for a Test-ride !
We will analyse 6 public water points at the heart of the Senne Valley.
Do come and join us!

We start at 19:00 at place Rouppe [GPS coordinates 50.842810, 4.345810 for the fans],
the map below allows you to catch up and discover some water points in the Valley for yourself.

We hope to see you there,

the Pacco-team »
㊌ Pacco-test UPDATE: WE ARE LIVE ! Dear friends of the Pacco-test!

TODAY. On the eve of WorldWaterDay. During a breathtaking solar eclipse. The Pacco-test was road-tested by about 30 young people all aged around 9 years old. AND IT WORKED !!!!

The picture shows a young lady geek and young gentleman geek testing the quality of the Friche Eggevoort pond »
UPDATE 04.07.2014 :: Pacco-test: ALL aboard !

July 1, 2014: we are finishing the hardware phase of the Pacco-test
For the first time all parts are connected, AND are working autonomously from a 12V battery.
[read more...]


Organisations and groups who want to use the Pacco-test as part  of their work should contact us NOW. Towards the end of the summer the software phase will be finished, after which we will start calibrating the machine to make it scientifically accurate. If your organisation has certain conditions, requirements or wishes; NOW is the time to contact us, so we can include what you want in the final design.
We look forward to hearing from you.

Pacco-test in Science Village report On Sunday 11 May the Pacco-test took another important step in its interactive existence. In the run up to a full functioning prototype, this time we asked the public's reaction to a concept test. Among a wide variety of scientific tests and educational entertainment, the Iris fêtes' drenched audience tried out the Pacco-test procedure for testing quality of water from fountains and puddles. With probes and computer all hooked up, Pacco-testers on screen received questions about the sample they took and commands on how to take measurement.
Equipe Pacco-test invité au Village Scientifique 11.05.2014 
PACCO-TEST > Village Scientifique
11-13:00 WALK "Water at the Mont des Arts?"
start of walk at Métro Parc
12-18:00 Concept test
field-lab at rue Saint-Jean

1000 bxl
The Pacco-fest Report

Pacco-fest report [15/02/2014], the starting of an open process to collectively build and use a scientific measuring instrument for water quality hat is relevant for citizens as well as scientists.

The Pacco-fest is a festive brainstorm that consists of an intercative expo, a point d'idées and conversations. The different subjects are subdivided in 7 groups, each of which named after a physical part of the Pacco-test. The groupes not only collect practical questions, but also more conceptual, social and political ones. The groupes are: the box, the screen, the computer, the lending point, the data-base, the users and water. 

Each question is an opportunity for more or less formal discussions. After 15 February three working parties [Science, Computer, Quartier] will be formed around different subject of debate. They can help find solutions or take on the challenge.

Pacco-fest 15.02.2014 
14:00 >> 21:00 
herdersstraat 30 rue du berger 
1050 bxl
Fwd: Dear friends of the Pacco-test,

This message is the first one (ever!) sent from the Pacco-01 [pictured below]
the hand-sized computer that will power the Pacco test in times to come.

May wealth, health and happiness be your share in 2014
and may we meet many times [save 15 February already].

Best regards

Sent from Pacco-01, a Raspberry pi
Update 18.12.2013 :: Pacco-test: Back to Pacco Dear friends of the Pacco-test,

Since August the Pacco-test knows where it is!
So what's next? »
22 en 25. 05.2013 :: Biodiversiteitsparcours Eggevoort Friche/Leopolds22 et 25. 05.2013 :: Parcours Biodiversité Friche Eggevoort/Parc Léopoldspark 22 and 25 May – ParcoursBiodiversité Eggevoort Friche/Parc Léopold
Test the surface water from your neighbourhood. Bring at least 1 Liter of the water you want to test to the Proper Water Pavilion. The first prototype of the Pacco-test software will reveal the state of the water in your area. Alternatively, come to the Pavilion and contribute to mapping the water in the European neighbourhood by doing a neighbourhood walk and bringing a water sample to the Pavilion.

Stay posted via regular emails.   Subscribe by sending an email to 
jim [at] citymined dot org
UPDATE 20.05.2013 :: Pacco-test: facing the music  

Dear friends of the Pacco-test,

on Wednesday 22 May (and again on Saturday 25 May), the Pacco-test joins the New Urban Rivers, the Museum of Natural Sciences, the Maelbeek Historians and the Petits Débrouillards on the Eggevoort Friche near the Leopold Park to test the Pacco-test beta on a live audience.

A test-lab will be set up under the Proper Water Pavilion.

Bring, forage or collect surface water for it to be tested by your qualified team of lab technicians !

more details here

UPDATE 28.04.2013 :: Pacco-test: the Eponymous Dr. Antoine Pacco

Dear friends of the Pacco-test,

This week saw a visit of the Eponymous Dr Antoine Pacco to the test site of the Pacco-test.

Tests in Parc Léopold revealed some interference between different probes, but we are working on solutions.

Also, a lot of thought is going into the user interface: the Pacco-test could actually work without user input, but where is the fun in that ??? So we're adding switches, toggles, buttons, buzzers and delays.

You can meet the eminent Dr Pacco on May 25th during the 2nd day of the Parcours biodiversité [day 1 is on Wednesday May 22, note: opportunity to test your surface water! Bring a bottle].

Stay put,
more soon
UPDATE 22.04.2013 :: Pacco-test: All the Colours of the Royal Flush !
Dear friends of the Pacco-test,

Yesterday our Arduino powered micro-processor calculated all 5 qualities of water, "all the colours of the royal flush",as poker players would say :

- Ph [measures the hydrogen ion concentration,]
- ORP [measures the tendency of water to acquire electrons]
- temperature [measures hotness and coldness on a numerical scale]
- conductivity [measures the ionic content in water and links directly to the total dissolved solids] and
- DO [measures the amount of oxygen that is dissolved or carried in water]

of the Eggevoort pont. Even without exact calibration of the sensors the readings already seem to make sense.

Next step: Outputs !!!!
UDATE 15.04.2013 :: Pacco-test: testing, testing, ...
Yesterday at Friche Eggevoort, European Quarter, Brussels, the first probes went to water!
The Ph-value of the water of the PUM-dug pont (compensated for temperature !!!) is 7.42.
The goldfish, who after more than a year are still squatting, confirmed that this is plausible (they nodded when I asked).
Next step: add ORP, DO and Conductivity.
UPDATE 04.04.2013 :: Pacco-test: Sensors aboard !good tidings from London:
after we paid the ransom, Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs have released the sensors for the Pacco-test!
Dissolved Oxygen probe,
Conductivity probe &
are now in our hands.
we will start wiring things up and keep you posted


City Mine(d)

Eau Propre | Proper Water by City Mine(d)
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