Great Lakes Beach Health Initiative

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Water recreation and associated tourism provide wide-ranging economic opportunities and societal benefits to the Great Lakes Region. Unfortunately, coastal areas can become contaminated with pathogens (disease-causing microorganisms) of fecal origin that threaten the health of people who swim in coastal waters. Beach advisories and closures are intended to protect swimmers from illness caused by fecal contamination; however, several problems face beach managers who issue advisories or closures or try to solve contamination problems:
Real-Time Assessments

Traditional lab analyses for beach water quality take too long

Current beach water-quality monitoring relies on culturing of fecal-indicator bacteria, such as E. coli or enterococci. Unfortunately, results aren’t available until at least 18–24 hours after sampling. Too often, beaches are closed or placed under advisory too late to protect visitor health or are closed unnecessarily. Rapid assessments are needed to improve the timeliness and accuracy of beach closures and advisories. Read More >>

Pathogens and Microbial Source Tracking

Sources of fecal contamination in recreational waters are often unknown

This makes it difficult to assess the extent of fecal contamination and take remedial actions. Relations between coastal processes, such as sediment transport and wave action, and bacteria concentrations from nonpoint sources need to be comprehensively studied in the Great Lakes. Methods that can distinguish between human and animal fecal contamination also need to be developed and applied to help identify risks associated with contaminated recreational waters. Read More >>

Coastal Processes

Recreational waters are seldom monitored for actual pathogens

Fecal indicator bacteria do not necessarily have the same transport and survival properties as all pathogens. Beach managers need data on the types of potential pathogens present, the relation of the pathogens to indicator-organism concentrations, and options for other parameters—such as environmental conditions—that correlate well with pathogens and potential swimming-related illness at their beaches. Read More >>

Improving Beach-Data Analysis, Interpretation, and Communication

Data used to study recreational waters are sometimes inconsistent between beaches

This is because data currently are compiled by numerous agencies and in a wide variety of formats. Improved Great Lakes-wide data reporting, data consistency, and data accessibility are needed to better facilitate analysis, interpretation, and communication among those who monitor, evaluate trends, or do research at beaches. Read More >>

USGS Great Lakes Beaches Mission

For over a decade, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has been a leader in the science of beach health. The overall mission of this work is to provide science-based information and methods that will allow beach managers to more accurately make beach closure and advisory decisions, understand the sources and physical processes affecting beach contaminants, and understand how science-based information can be used to mitigate and restore beaches and protect the public. The work consists of four science elements—real-time assessments; pathogens and microbial source tracking; coastal processes; and data analysis, interpretation, and communication—which are described in this website.

USGS Great Lakes Beaches Funding

Funding for USGS beach projects and research in the Great Lakes comes from a variety of sources including the: Ocean Research Priority Plan, USGS; the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, USEPA; and many state and local partner agencies and organizations throughout the region.

USGS Great Lakes Beaches News
Understanding Beach Health Throughout the Great Lakes Fact Sheet 5 NEW Fact Sheets
USGS work in beach health consists of four science elements which are described in these fact sheets.
Recreational Water Quality Bibliography Water Quality Bibliography
Database of 1200+ citations for publications pertaining to recreational water quality.
Ohio Nowcast Website Ohio Nowcast
A daily nowcast of recreational water quality conditions.
Beach Health Webinar Beach Health Webinar - Feb. 2014
Providing the beach-going public with the best water-quality information available.
USGS Great Lakes Beaches Contacts

I have a question. Who do I contact?

For questions, please contact one of the USGS leads for the Great Lakes Beach Health Initiative:

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