AWW Data Makes Swimming at Your Favorite Water Hole Safer

Want to keep yourself and your loved ones from getting sick from exposure to contaminated water while recreating? Well, now, there’s an app for that! It’s called the SWIM Guide. Here’s a description of the Swim Guide and how it came to be, source: www.theswimguide.org

“Swim Guide is built and powered by Waterkeepers to connect you to beaches and swimming holes everywhere.

  • Discover a wide variety of beaches, ranging from city parks to remote lakes ideal for camping
  • Identify at a glance which beaches are clean for swimming (Green) and which have water quality problems (Red)
  • Get walking, driving, or transit directions to the beach of your choice
  • Bookmark beaches for easy access
  • Share your love for the best swimming holes on social media
  • Help protect your waterway by reporting pollution or environmental concerns
iPhone Screenshots of Swim Guide

iPhone Screenshots of Swim Guide


The Story Behind Swim Guide
Swim Guide began in Toronto, Canada. A team of staff and volunteers at Lake Ontario Waterkeeper set out to answer this simple question: Is it safe to swim in Lake Ontario? That one question led us on a journey connecting Waterkeeper organizations across Canada and the USA, as well as other affiliates with a shared desire for swimmable waterways.

 It should be easy to find clean water and a nice, accessible swimming hole. Unfortunately, reliable facts and figures about beach water quality were hard to come by. So we started compiling our own. For more than a decade, we have tracked beach water quality trends, adding more beaches to our database every year.

The research process was interesting, but it wasn’t very helpful to beachgoers like you. What you really wanted was a tool that would tell you where the closest beaches are and which ones are safe for swimming right now.

Enter the Waterkeeper Swim Guide app for iPhone®, Android, or web. Created by Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, this free app helps you find your closest beaches, know at a glance which ones are safe for swimming, and share your love of beaches with friends and family.

This last part—sharing a love of beaches—is really important to Waterkeepers. Since 2011, dozens of nonprofit and public organizations have started contributing information to Swim Guide. By the height of swimming season in 2013, Swim Guide will include most official beaches in Canada and the USA. It draws on water quality information from government agencies or from Waterkeepers themselves so that you have access to up-to-date water quality as often as possible.

Waterkeepers are building Swim Guide for one reason: we want people to explore, enjoy, and fall in love with the beach so that our coastlines and swimming holes will be protected for generations to come.” 

Click image above for a video of Mike Mullen monitoring for E. coli at one of his 11 bacteriological monitoring sites.

Click image above for a video of Mike Mullen monitoring for E. coli at one of his 11 bacteriological monitoring sites.

Swim Guide was brought to the attention of AWW several months ago by Choctawhatchee Riverkeeper/Alabama Water Watch Association board of directors member/AWW certified monitor/AWW trainer, Mike Mullen. Mike has been watching over the waters of the Choctawhatchee and Pea rivers in Alabama’s Coastal Plain for the past two decades, sampling at 54 sites (on 16 different creeks, 5 rivers and on Lake Jackson),  contributing over 4,800 data records to AWW’s online water quality data base – amazing!  Mike is a stellar example of a true watershed steward – check out his many stewardship activities at www.choctawhatcheeriver.org

BigCreek-nearElba2

Big Creek at Coffee County Road 342 (AWW site 04007051), near Elba, AL is one of the 11 sites that Mike monitors for bacterial contamination and features in the Swim Guide app.

Mike recognized the value in the Swim Guide app, and has recently been inputting his bacteriological data into the app’s database. You can check out his area swimming holes and get the Swim Guide app at www.theswimguide.org (click on either of the 2 circle icons in the Dothan-Andalusia area to access the map below).

MullenSGsites

Eleven sites in Alabama’s Coastal Plain featured in the Swim Guide (see www.theswimguide.org)

As a result of Mike’s enthusiasm and guidance, AWW is currently pursuing becoming a Waterkeeper Swim Guide Affiliate, and plans to encourage all AWW-certified bacteriological monitors who monitor waters frequented by swimmers/ water recreators to consider inputting their bacteriological monitoring data into the Swim Guide database. Putting our AWW data to work will certainly benefit all of us when we go out to enjoy our state’s beautiful waters!

EcoliEM4

Magnified image of E. coli (SOURCE: E. coli poisoning from Missouri stream cost a biologist his appendix; see www.pitch.com/FastPitch/archives/2010/06/22/e-coli-poisoning-from-missouri-stream-cost-a-biologist-his-appendix)

For information on how to input your bacteriological data into Swim Guide, go to www.theswimguide.org/guide/participate, or contact the AWW office by email (info@alabamawaterwatch.org) or phone  (toll free): 1 (888) 844-4785.

Swim Guide App Customer Reviews:
Fabulous!!
by EcoLawyer 
I have been using this app since it launched in 2011, and each version gets better and better- version 2.20′s new features are brilliant- and the corresponding website just received a facelift I see!  This is the app I always use to keep me and my family informed about the state of my local water bodies and favourite beaches. I feel better knowing that my family is swimming in safe waters, and whenever I leave Vancouver and travel to Florida, New York or California, I use it regularly to check in on the state of the local waters I visit. Tremendous value!

Read more about the Swim Guide:

Countdown to Summer: The New Waterkeeper Swim Guide for Safe Swimming (Huffington Post)

Find the cleanest, safest beaches with updated Swim Guide app (Mother Nature Network)

Avoid Dirty Beaches With Swim Guide App (Mashable.com)

 

 

3 thoughts on “AWW Data Makes Swimming at Your Favorite Water Hole Safer

  1. Jackie,
    To check your favorite swimming spot on Wheeler at Blackberry Hollow, you would go to http://www.theswimguide.org and pan on the map to North Alabama to check for reported sites and data. Unfortunately, nobody has submitted bacteria data from Wheeler to the Swim Guide, at least not yet! We at AWW plan to encourage all of our certified bacteriological monitors to input their bacteria/E. coli data into the Swim Guide, for the betterment of us all. So, hopefully in the not-too-distant future, you will have data on your favorite swimming hole! Ps. We’d love to get you trained and certified in bacteriological monitoring so that YOU can monitor at Blackberry Hollow :)

  2. How do I check my swimming spot? That would be Wheeler Lake at Blackberry Hollow.

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