The story of Swim Guide – we hope you like it!
Swim Guide began in Toronto, Canada. A team of staff and volunteers at the charity Lake Ontario Waterkeeper set out to answer this simple question: is it safe to swim in Lake Ontario?
As it turns out, reliable facts and figures about beach water quality are hard to come by. So we started compiling our own.
For five years, we tracked which beaches were open and posted on scraps of paper and clunky spreadsheets and generated an annual report for our watershed. Each year we expanded our beach report to include more beaches in more parts of Southern Ontario and upstate New York.
It was interesting for us as researchers, but it wasn’t very helpful to you, as a beach-goer. What you really needed was some tool that would tell you where the beaches are and which ones are safe for swimming right now.
Two years ago, we decided to make that tool. First, we built a Swim Guide engine so that every day we can phone or visit the websites for a ton of beach monitoring agencies and enter the information into our custom-built database.
Many years and thousands of hours after you first asked us if it is safe to swim at your beach, we could finally crunch the numbers and answer: “Yes, usually.”
Of course, answering your question was only step one. Our next challenge was figuring out how to give you easy to read beach quality information whenever you want it, wherever you want it.
That was no easy task. In 2011, for example, we checked-in with about 90 different sources who monitored about 1,700 beaches every day. We recorded 200,000 different points of data in our Swim Guide database that first summer.
The next challenge was converting that information into a format that means something to you: here is where it is safe to swim, and this is how you get there.
Enter the Swim Guide app for iPhone® or Android. 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 your friends.
This last part – sharing your love of beaches – is really important to us. We can’t restore and protect the world’s greatest beaches without you and your friends. We can’t celebrate and enjoy the beach culture in our own backyards without you and your friends.
In the spirit of sharing, we at Lake Ontario Waterkeeper added most of the beaches on the Great Lakes to Swim Guide. We know that people who live near one Great Lake also love to visit parks and beaches in different watersheds.
We also invited other watershed protection organizations to join our Swim Guide team. Fraser Riverkeeper in Vancouver, North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper in Edmonton, Ottawa Riverkeeper, and Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper in Miami were the first to join Swim Guide.
We built Swim Guide for one reason and one reason only: because we love your beaches. We want you to explore, enjoy and learn about the fantastic beaches near you.
Come swim with us. Download the app now.
Acknowledgements: Swim Guide would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of many volunteers and donors. For their support and inspiration, we thank Gord Downie and The Tragically Hip team, RBC Blue Water Project, Karen and Kevin Lowe, Britt Standen, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Mary Beth Postman, Dylan Neild, and Kim Samuel-Johnson. Thanks also to the numerous individual donors who support the Waterkeeper vision.
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© Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, 2011 - 2018