People love summer. Whether you are in school, getting anxious for a summer break or at work dreaming of weekend getaways, summer brings smiles and warm memories to most of us. And like summer, everyone loves a day at the beach. We love to go to the beach to cool off, play in the sand, go fishing or snorkeling, escape the city heat, and, most importantly, spend time with our friends and family.
Every year, we make two billion trips to roughly 4,000 beaches, spending billions of dollars in the process. Unfortunately, however, water quality at many beaches around the U.S. is declining. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently estimated that up to 3.5 million people will become sick after swimming at their favorite beach or swimming hole this year. Despite nearly 40 years of Clean Water Act successes, polluted runoff, sewer overflows, and other human activities are threatening one of our favorite summer pastimes, as noted below in this video from California resident MJ Mazurek:
A contributing factor to these threats is that people lack access to up-to-date, easy to understand information on where and when it is safe to swim, until now.
Today, we have the solution to beach contamination and beach information problems: the Waterkeeper Swim Guide. Created by Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, the Waterkeeper Swim Guide is a smartphone app and website that tells you where your closest beaches are, which ones are open for swimming, and which have unreliable monitoring data. In fact, the Waterkeeper Swim Guide goes further by describing the laws and policies and sampling procedures that apply to your beaches; drawing attention to the beaches with chronic water quality problems, so we can protect them; drawing attention to the areas where beach quality data is not collected, is unreliable, or is not being released; and promoting beaches with the best water quality. Today, in time for summer 2012, Waterkeeper Alliance is launching the Swim Guide in the states of Florida and California, adding to the Guide's existing stock of beaches in Miami; Mobile, Ala.; the Great Lakes; Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia, and parts of Quebec.
Swim Guide uses information from government monitoring sources and offers historical beach status information to help people make informed decisions about where and when they want to swim. At the same time, we have partnered with Hertz to make the Waterkeeper Swim Guide available in the coming months on Hertz's rental car NeverLost system. We wouldn't have been able to bring the Swim Guide to California and Florida without their support.
Swim Guide is a public education vehicle that helps to drive environmental change. It draws attention to areas in need of better environmental protection and fosters a connection between communities and their local waters. A new feature on the app now allows citizens to take action to protect their waterways, by using their smartphone to take a picture of and report pollution to their local Waterkeeper. The long-term benefits of the Waterkeeper Swim Guide include improved public policy, a more engaged community, strengthened communications, and better restoration and protection of our waterways. Beachgoers are passionate about their favorite beaches; if you discovered that your favorite beach was unsafe on some days, you would take action wouldn't you? The Swim Guide now makes it easy.
Like beaches, the Waterkeeper Swim Guide is available for free to anyone with internet access or a smartphone. Throughout the summer and beyond, the Waterkeeper Swim Guide will be coming to your community to help ensure that you can go down to your local beach and have a swim without fear of getting sick.
The app is available on the App Store and via Android.
Follow Marc Yaggi on Twitter: www.twitter.com/marcyaggi