Metro News profiled Swim Guide and Riverkeeper’s efforts to protect beach-goers in Alberta on June 12, 2013. Here’s an excerpt:
Mounting concerns about toxic blue-green algae blooms and other waterborne contaminants may have some beach bums heading for the backyard rather than the lakefront. But Glenn Isaac, director of North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper, says his group is working hard to help keep Albertans enjoying the beach experience.
In 2012, thanks to an RBC Blue Water Project grant, Riverkeeper expanded its Alberta Swim Guide, an app and website that uses water quality monitoring data to indicate safe and unsafe beach conditions.
“Showing up at a beach to find there’s a swimming advisory limits summer fun,” Isaac says. “Swim Guide offers a one-stop shopping approach. Before you plan your trip, you can use your phone or computer to easily search for a safe beach in your area.”
Isaac says the app now covers more than 100 beaches in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
How does it work? Advisory alerts come from Alberta Health Services (AHS), which, during bathing season, requires that operated beaches be monitored for fecal coliform bacteria. AHS also routinely monitors several lakes and beaches for the presence of toxic blue-green algae blooms. When an advisory is posted, Riverkeeper updates the Swim Guide.
As a result of the grant and the program’s success, Riverkeeper will maintain water quality updates through 2013 and, hopefully, well beyond.
“We had over 40,000 views in Alberta and Saskatchewan in 2012,” Isaac says.
“People are discovering more about lake quality issues and learning about ways to protect our water.”
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