, Director of Swimmable Water Programs
Posted: November 12, 2018 at 3:29 pm

Swim Guide protecting public health and clean water with launch of first open data standard for recreational water quality thanks to CIRA’s Community Investment Program.

TORONTO, November 13, 2018 – Swim Guide, the world’s leading beach information service, is pleased to announce the release of its open data standard for the automated exchange of recreational water quality data. This is the first ever open data standard for recreational water quality.

Recreational water quality data is monitored by multiple programs led by states, counties and organizations, at beaches, rivers, lakes and swimming holes worldwide with the primary purpose of protecting public health from polluted water. Current recreational water quality data helps beachgoers and water users be informed about contaminated water, contact with which can lead to illness and infection. When water quality data from beach monitoring programs are shared as quickly as possible, then people have the information they need before they go swimming.

In recent years, more and more recreational water quality data is being shared in open, machine-readable formats. This not only greatly improves public access to this time-sensitive data, but it also allows recreational water quality data to become more useful and useable. To date, however, there has been little consistency in the structure of the available open recreational water quality data This impedes the interoperability of this important beach water quality information.

In order to address this issue, Swim Guide developed an open data standard. The main goal of the endeavor is to improve the quality and timeliness of beach water quality data, and to help ensure that open recreational water quality data meets the F.A.I.R data principles (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable.)

Swim Guide, a Swim Drink Fish initiative, developed the open data standard with funding and support from a 2017 Community Investment Program grant from the Canadian Internet Registration Authority ( In addition to Swim Guide staff, the main authors of the standard are the U.S. EPA’s Research and Development team, the Surfrider Foundation, Alberta Health Services, and the River Network. The Surfrider Foundation was the first organization to use the new Swim Guide open data standard to share beach water quality data from its volunteer-led Blue Water Task Force water quality monitoring program.

Swim Guide provides recreational water quality data for over 7,000 beaches in eight countries. To date, Swim Guide has nearly three million users.


“The Open Data collaboration is all about partnerships. The community of Surfrider, CIRA and Swim Drink Fish will continue to create more awareness in protecting public health.”
– Mark Mattson, Swim Drink Fish Canada

“Surfrider’s main goal for monitoring beach water quality is to make sure that beachgoers have the information they need to know where it’s safe to surf and swim in the water, and to alert authorities of where pollution problems exist so they can be solved. We are really excited about the potential to reach new audiences and to amplify the impact of our data by using the new open data standard with Swim Guide. ”
– Mara Dias, Surfrider Foundation

“We are thrilled to see digital technology put to use in this innovative way to monitor beaches, rivers, lakes and Canadians’ favourite swimming spots,” says David Fowler, vice president of marketing and communications at CIRA. “Funding projects like this through CIRA’s Community Investment Program provides a tangible benefit to Canadians. In this case it will lead to better-quality data, helping Canadians safely enjoy the beauty of our country’s recreational waterways.”
– David Fowler, vice president of marketing and communications, Canadian Internet Registration Authority

“Safer recreational swimming, boating, and fishing requires that data on safety and risk be shared with the public as quickly as possible to best inform their daily decisions. This data standard will allow for electronic data-sharing between data producers, users, and stakeholders. Through this standard, numerous technologies can now be applied to ease the communication of information that will ultimately protect human health.”
– Adam Griggs, River Network

Quick Facts

  • Open Data is defined as structured data that is machine-readable, freely shared, used and built on without restrictions. (Gov of Canada – Open Data). The goal is interoperability.
  • The Open Data Standard for the recreational water quality will increase data exchange, improve public awareness of water quality, and aid researchers trying to protect recreational waters.
  • The Surfrider Foundation’s Blue Water Task Force uses the Swim Drink Fish open data standard to share their recreational water quality information for over 45 volunteer-led water testing programs in Canada and the US.

  • The goals of the open data standard are to:
  • -Create a single standard for presenting recreational water quality data, so that different people monitoring different waters can share their results
    -Make the standard open, so that everyone can see it and shape it
    -Ensure data is shared in a machine-readable format (i.e., not pdf, not csv, not RSS) so that sharing is easy and automated

  • CIRA’s Community Investment Program provides over $1 million annually in grants to Canadian not-for-profits, charities and academic institutions doing good things for and through the Canadian internet. To date, CIRA has provided $5.45 million, supporting 130 projects. Visit to learn more.
  • Photos

    Photo 1: link to SG app photos and SG logo, Cira logo, and Surfrider logo

    Photo credit instructions: “Photo courtesy Swim Drink Fish Canada”

    Additional Links

    Link to open data standard on Swim Drink Fish’s Github:
    Link to open data standard website:
    Link to Swim Guide
    Link to community investment program :


    Matt Brown
    Communications Manager
    Swim Drink Fish Canada
    Swim Drink Fish is a Registered Canadian charity that connects people with water.

    Swim Guide
    is supported by
    * The RBC Foundation

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