The most common method for managing beaches, referred to as the “persistence model”, assumes that fecal indicator bacteria (FIB) concentrations, such as E. coli, from yesterday are representative of today, due to the 24-hour time requirement for analyzing FIB. The assumption of using day old data for managing public beaches may result in over-conservative or under-conservative beach advisories. For several years, beach managers in the Great Lakes have expressed interest in predictive beach water quality tools that will help them better manage beaches.
Researchers at the Cooperative Institute for Limnology and Ecosystems Research (CILER) are collaborating with NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL) and NOAA’s Center of Excellence for Great Lakes and Human Health (CEGLHH) to develop a beach water quality forecasting system. The system links watershed land use and runoff from precipitation, forecasts of river discharge and near-shore currents, and biological processes to predict and simulate concentrations of fecal indicator bacteria at beaches impacted by river discharge using GLERL’s Huron-Erie Connecting Waterways Forecasting System (HECWFS). Nearly two seasons of intensive monitoring have been completed for the beaches impacted by the Michigan’s Clinton River, and provide the basis for this decision support tool.
In addition to providing a new tool for determining safety of Great Lakes beaches, this program represents a major contribution to near-shore ecological forecasting by demonstrating the use of linked models to simulate pollutant fate and transport. This work supports CEGLHH’s goal of understanding of ecosystem processes, particularly hydrodynamics and the influence of abiotic factors on the fate, transport of sources and loadings of bacteria and microbial contaminants to assist in environmental decision-making and reduce human health risks.
Contact Information: Lauren Fry, CILER Research Fellow