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Welcoming Our Latest Affiliate: Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper
February 8, 2016

We are excited to welcome Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper to the Swim Guide!


Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper is promoting swimmable, drinkable, fishable water through a number of community-based initiatives that work to restore valuable fish and wildlife habitat, improve public access through greenways, and remove pollution from our watersheds. 

Not even 30 years ago, the future of the Buffalo River was anything but bright. But through the hard work and dedication of this Riverkeeper throughout the 1990s and 2000s, the health of the Buffalo River has improved dramatically – and we’re so proud to work with an affiliate like this.


In 1987, the Buffalo River was designated one of the 43 most toxic hotspots in the Great Lakes1.  This designation led to the development of a Remedial Action Plan (RAP), and marked the beginning of a history to protect and restore this 13-km river, which empties into Lake Erie.

Buffalo River was historically the site of heavy industry. Photo Credit: James Marvin Phelps

Buffalo River was historically the site of heavy industry.

At the same time, local citizens formed “The Friends of the Buffalo River” to promote the protection of the river. This group worked throughout the 1990s, eventually becoming the first nonprofit in the Great Lakes Basin to receive funding and authority from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to coordinate and manage the implementation of a RAP. In the early 2000s, they renamed themselves the “Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper.”

The Watershed Today

Thanks to the hard work of environmental groups like Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, the Buffalo River becomes cleaner everyday. Though it still faces threats from combined sewer overflows, the Riverkeeper has been combating this through their community-based Rain Barrel Program. The river’s history as the site of heavy industry is also beginning to decline. 

A Sunset on the Buffalo River Overlooking a Lighthouse. Photo Credit: Jimmy Emerson, Flickr

A Sunset on the Buffalo River Overlooking a Lighthouse.

The Riverkeeper

Along with their dedication to promoting watershed health and quality, Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper is intimately involved in their community. Their Rain Barrel program encourages local residents to save water and reduce the amount of polluted runoff entering streams, creeks, rivers, and Lake Erie. The barrels, which collect rain that would otherwise be lost to the sewer, helps to combat problems with combined sewer systems: during heavy rain or snowmelt events, combined sewer systems are quickly overwhelmed, causing urban runoff and often sewage to be discharged into our local watersheds.

Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper also monitors several dozen sites around the region, sampling for a range of water quality parameters. They will be sharing the results of their data on Swim Guide.

You can read more about their programs here

We are so happy to have Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper on board. Welcome to the Swim Guide!



Introducing The Watermark Project: Why Swim Guide Needs Your Water Stories
January 25, 2016


Only last week, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper launched the Watermark Project, a digital archive of water stories collected from people around the world sharing their most powerful water memory.

At first glance, the Watermark Project may seem wholly separate from Swim Guide: watermarks are stories of our watersheds, while the Swim Guide shares hard data.

But as someone deeply committed to protecting the water bodies around me, I know that these two projects are not only linked, they’re inseparable.

Watermarks are a record of our connection to a watershed. For each of us, Watermarks are the reason we care about water and what drives us to protect it.

Watermarks are our memories. Swim Guide is our tool.

We started Swim Guide because we believe that every person should be able to swim at any beach on any day of the summer and never have to worry about health risks. When water isn’t safe to touch, people withdraw from it. And when the connection between us and our water fades, so does our instinct to protect it.

When you share your Watermark, you’re strengthening your own connection to water, and sharing valuable stories for everyone that may visit that watershed in the future.

Maybe your Watermark is overwhelmingly positive: dipping your feet in the ocean for the first time and feeling the waves lap over your toes, or jumping off a dock into your favourite lake as a child.

But maybe it’s not a happy memory.

Maybe your first memory of water is driving down to the beach, only to be turned away because the water wasn’t safe. Maybe it was growing up in a community where the water couldn’t be drunk, let alone touched.

Whatever your story, whatever the memory, these stories not only strengthen Swim Guide, they are critical to its very success.

If we aren’t connected to water, we pull away from it. When we pull away from water, we are immune to its destruction. We stop spending time at the beach or on the ocean. The water is no longer our friend, but a distant acquaintance.

As users and promoters of the Swim Guide, it’s our duty to share our water stories. It’s our pledge to protect these water bodies. One of the best ways to do this is through narrative. By sharing your story, you deepen your connection to water – and encourage others to do the same.

Submit your story here.


11 beaches that will have you dreaming of a sunny getaway
January 18, 2016


Now that it’s officially winter and the snow is starting to fall – it’s time to start dreaming of your next vacation. Think surf, sand, and sun.

To give you a head start on the planning, we curated a list of 11 beautiful Swim Guide beaches – so shake off those winter blues and get inspired!


Mobile Baykeeper’s Mantra: Take the First Step
December 23, 2015

 Mobile Bay Sunset AL

At a time when our news is fraught with doom-and-gloom stories about water quality and climate change, Mobile Baykeeper is keeping the tone light.

It’s hard not to feel overwhelmed when it comes to the environment, but it is hard to feel as though we can truly effect change. What can we do to combat rising sea levels or whole islands being swallowed up by the ocean? What can we do about greenhouse gas emissions or the toxic air quality in China?

These types of thoughts can make us indifferent, even apathetic, to environmental concerns. But there’s something simple we can do to change our mindset (Hint: think smaller).


Great Lakes & St. Lawrence River Best and Worst Beaches 2015
December 16, 2015


Photo by Vitek Kloc

Two weeks ago, we published the second annual Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Beach Report.

While the results showed an overall improvement, Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River beaches met water quality standards more often in 2015, we also want to give recreational water users a closer look at their beaches. A naughty and nice list, so to speak.

Which beaches met recreational water quality standards more frequently? On the opposite end, which beaches frequently failed?

Because water quality data is still in the process of improving, after reading the list, please consider the important notes that follow as well.

Without further ado, here are the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence best and worst beaches in 2015. Did your local beach make the top 5?