With the support of a grant from the National Environmental Information Exchange Network, a prototype application was developed by the GMRI Ocean Data Products group for beach managers in the northeast. The application integrates model output from historical water quality and precipitation data with real-time data and makes a prediction of the probability that today's Enterococci levels will exceed the safe swimming standard at beaches in New Hampshire and Maine. Historic data for each site provides some context to view current conditions and identify trends. (Enterococcus is a bacteria that can lead to beach closures if detected at high levels).
This product makes data more accessible across the region and additionally provides access to data streams that could lead to new insights and potentially forecast events that could lead to contamination. The water quality tests used to detect Enterococci levels can take up to 24 hours to process. As a result, conservative practice is preventative closures usually after significant rain with the test used to confirm whether it’s safe to reopen.
This is a working prototype, and we are actively seeking funding to extend the capacity. The model was initially developed by scientists at the University of South Carolina and is currently in use to monitor beaches in South Carolina.