Every year, nearly two-thirds of Canadians pack their swim gear and head out with their family and friends in search of swimmable water. As it turns out, reliable facts and figures about beach water quality are hard to come by. Consequently, it is very difficult for the average citizen to make an informed decision about where to swim.
Swim Guide began in Toronto when a team of staff and volunteers at Lake Ontario Waterkeeper set out to answer this simple question: Is it safe to swim in Lake Ontario?
With cities and industries relying heavily on lakes and rivers to dispose of waste, and with increasing contaminated runoff from aged and crumbling infrastructure, having water quality information ready and available is integral to our health and safety.
Without reliable and current data about water quality people are vulnerable to illness and infection. 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.
We’ve come a long way since launching Swim Guide in 2011 with water quality information for 800 beaches in the Great Lakes states, Ontario, and Vancouver-area.
As of 2014, Swim Guide provides water quality information for over 6,500 beaches across Canada, the US, and Mexico. Over 350,000 unique individuals rely on the app to know whether or not their water has met or failed water quality standards.
Swim Guide has over 1000 beaches in the Great Lakes Basin. This neat infographic summarizes our Swim Guide’s 2014 Beach Report on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River watershed.
To calculate the averages, we first calculated the total number of monitoring days for each lake (sum of total number of days monitored for all beaches). To find the averages we divided the number of days a beach passed, failed, or for which no current or reliable water quality data was available by the total number of monitoring days for each lake. Beaches with an incomplete or partial monitoring record (e.g., new beaches or beaches under construction with less than 5 weeks of monitoring data) were omitted from our calculations. Beaches with unreliable or inconsistent water quality monitoring were also omitted from our calculations.
The "most popular" lists were generated based on beach views by Swim Guide users in 2014.
Also, consider these notes:
- The green icon indicates the average amount of time beaches met water quality standards during the 2014 monitoring season.
- The red icon is the average amount of time beaches failed to meet water quality criteria.
- N/A indicates the amount of time water quality data was unreliable or unavailable.
- Don’t forget to scrutinize the “failed” and “passed” averages compared to the average amount of time no water quality data was available. For instance, Lake Superior and Lake Huron do not have the highest water quality “green” average, but water quality data wasn’t always available.
- Swim Guide adds beaches based on available monitoring data and user-request. Lake Ontario has the greatest number of monitored beaches because Swim Guide users are currently frequenting more Lake Ontario beaches. If your favourite Great Lake or St. Lawrence beach is not in Swim Guide please send us a beach request.
So how well did your lake or river score?
Share this infographic with your family and friends! See if their favourite beach made Swim Guide's Top 5!