The results of the 2015 Great Lakes & St. Lawrence Beach Report are in and the results for Lake Ontario are promising.
Lake Ontario beach water quality met provincial water standards more often this year than in 2014. Overall, Lake Ontario beaches met water quality standards 73% of the time in 2015. That is a huge improvement over last year’s 60% result.
“No data” days are declining
There were also significantly fewer “no data” days in 2015. That’s good news for both residents and tourists who need access to up to date water quality data.
In 2014, Lake Ontario water quality data was not available for 29% of the summer. As Waterkeeper Mark Mattson blogged about this summer, this is a worrying figure. No data days create misleading data, making water quality information that much more difficult to report.
Happily, the number of “no data” days on Lake Ontario dropped to 14%. This means that more water quality information is being released to the public, more often.
More “fails,” but that’s OK
More data means more information - and it’s not always good news. The number of days beaches failed to meet water quality standards also went up in 2015. Still, this means greater transparency for beach goers and, in all likelihood, a lower risk of contracting waterborne illnesses because water quality information is not available. Reporting bad results gives people the information they need to steer clear of polluted waters until bacteria levels drop. (This takes about 48 hours.)
The most popular beaches
Our report also includes a list of the five most popular beaches in the Lake Ontario watershed. We measure popularity based on the number of times a beach was viewed in Swim Guide. Some of the 2014 champions were knocked off the list in 2015, including:
Kinsmen Beach (Port Perry) jumped straight to #1 this year, knocking Bluffers (Toronto) down to #4. Woodbine (Toronto) stayed at #2. Marie Curtis Park East (Toronto) moved up one spot to #3. Sandbanks Provincial Park (Prince Edward County) made the list for the first time, at #5. Hanlan’s Point (Toronto) and Van Wagner’s (Hamilton) did not make the list in 2015.
Interestingly, many of the most popular beaches in Swim Guide are also beaches with poor water quality history. Kinsmen Beach failed water quality tests over 62% of the time, yet it was the most-viewed beach by Swim Guide users. This proves that sharing information - good and bad - about beaches serves the public’s interest.
Red flags and red herrings
Our 2015 Lake Ontario report looked at 61 more beaches, compared to 2014. Because of the increase in beaches included in the report, it’s hard to make a direct comparison between 2014 and 2015 results.
The two biggest Lake Ontario sewage spills of the year in Hamilton, and Toronto happened in October-November, after the swimming season ends. Sadly, the good beach water quality results for the summer do not necessarily mean that the waterbodies are in better health this year.
Swim Guide’s growth
Since we put out the 2014 report, we’ve added 61 more beaches in the Lake Ontario Basin.
Swim Guide has grown by 225,000 more individual users, including 78,987 new users in the Lake Ontario region. That brings our all-time user count to 562,000.
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 2015.
- The green icon indicates the average amount of time beaches met water quality standards during the 2015 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.
- Swim Guide was created by Lake Ontario Waterkeeper and is now used by 60+ organization around the world to share beach information.
- Swim Guide adds beaches based on available monitoring data and user-request. If your favourite Great Lake or St. Lawrence beach is not in Swim Guide please send us a beach request.