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NOAA real-time beach and water quality data now available for Lake St. Clair
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NOAA real-time beach and water quality data now available for Lake St. Clair

Contact: Sonia Joseph Joshi, sonia.joseph@noaa.gov, 734-741-2283, or Margaret Lansing, margaret.lansing@noaa.gov, 734-741-2210

Independence Day is right around the corner, and Michigan's Lake St. Clair residents and tourists are gearing up for a holiday weekend filled with fishing, swimming and boating activities. Beach managers can now view NOAA water quality predictions in real-time, instead of waiting 24 hours as before, to make timely decisions to safeguard public health and avoid unnecessary beach closures.

Dust on snowpack

Dust on snowpack

Dust on snowpack in the San Juan Mountains, Senator Beck Basin, Colorado, May 16, 2013. (Photo by Jeffrey Deems)

The lake, nestled between Lakes Huron & Erie, is central to the area's economy, providing approximately 5 million with fresh drinking water, and boating-related activities alone generating $260 million. Poor water quality can lead to beach closures, striking a blow to local businesses. It occurs when winds and waves transport harmful bacteria from a number of sources, including sewage, agricultural runoff and waterfowl.

Weekly samples are being collected along the lake to validate bacterial transport models, and that data is indexed online via a newly developed, interactive website. In addition, experimental tools for Memorial Beach and Metro Beach are being pilot-tested along with the real-time predictions on the movement of fecal indicator bacteria (FIB) like E. coli, as well as other bacterial concentrations.

In the future, NOAA aims to expand the model for use in other recreational waters as a means of assisting beach managers in better protecting public health.

Looking down from the tower north of Denver

Looking down from the tower north of Denver

NOAA's Dan Wolfe at the top of a 1,000-foot tower near Erie, Colo. Atmospheric data monitored from the tower first picked up evidence of an unaccounted for source of methane (a greenhouse gas) and other air pollutants in the region. Subsequent work pinned some of the pollutants on oil and gas development in the Denver-Julesburg fossil fuel basin. Credit: NOAA

"We created this tool based on feedback received by beach managers, public health officials, and community organizations throughout the Great Lakes," said Marie Colton, Ph.D., director of NOAA's Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL). "It is a unique, but not a uniquely-suited tool--we hope to adapt it to many other areas of the Great Lakes."

This tool is part of the NOAA Great Lakes Beach, Tributary, and Nearshore Water Quality Project, which also includes real-time prediction data for the nearshore waters of Indiana Dunes, Saginaw Bay, and the city of Grand Haven, Mich. It was developed by the Center for Excellence for Great Lakes and Human Health and Cooperative Institute for Limnology and Ecosystems Research, located at GLERL in Ann Arbor, Mich. It was funded through the U.S. Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

This project is not responsible for making decisions regarding beach closures and advisories. Local health departments test recreational waters to make those decisions. To access beach advisory information, visit the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality website: http://www.deq.state.mi.us/beach.

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