Jul 19, 2018

New Computer Models to Provide Short-term Forecasts for Beach Water Quality

Current water quality detection methods for beaches require up to 24 hours

Computer models to provide accurate, short-term forecasts of beach water quality

New computer will allow regulators the ability to retrieve accurate, short-term forecasts of beach water quality, referred to as “nowcasts.” Currently, collecting and analyzing beach water samples for quality can take up to 24 hours.

The number of beach closings as a result of excess levels of fecal microbes has increased over the past several years, especially in the Great Lakes region. The beginning of July 2018 alone spelled significant problems for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, which closed 30 beaches or administered advisories due to high bacteria levels.

Such bacteria puts citizens at risk for a bevy of health problems, especially infection, throughout the current format of testing. However, the new technology will potentially cut down on this timeframe significantly. While several different approaches were analyzed and samples taken from four sites in Lake Michigan, the conclusion eventually reached by researchers combined two techniques, wavelet transform and artificial neural network analysis. This approach only required bacterial data from the past and no additional inputs in order to perform the analysis.

This approach could prove useful for beach management without access to highly-detailed beach data, and will not require additional data input such as daily rainfall, water temperature or water turbidity.