Swim Guide began in Toronto, Canada. A team of staff and volunteers at the charity Lake Ontario Waterkeeper set out to answer this simple question: is it safe to swim in Lake Ontario?
As it turns out, reliable facts and figures about beach water quality are hard to come by. So we started compiling our own.
For five years, we tracked which beaches were open and posted on scraps of paper and clunky spreadsheets and generated an annual report for our watershed. Each year we expanded our beach report to include more beaches in more parts of Southern Ontario and upstate New York.
It was interesting for us as researchers, but it wasn’t very helpful to you, as a beach-goer. What you really needed was some tool that would tell you where the beaches are and which ones are safe for swimming right now.
Two years ago, we decided to make that tool. First, we built a Swim Guide engine so that every day we can phone or visit the websites for a ton of beach monitoring agencies and enter the information into our custom-built database.
Seven years and thousands of hours after you first asked us if it is safe to swim at your beach, we can finally crunch the numbers and answer: “Yes, usually.”
Of course, answering your question was only step one. Our next challenge was figuring out how to give you easy to read beach quality information whenever you want it, wherever you want it.
That was no easy task. This summer, for example, we will check-in with about 70 different sources who monitor about 800 beaches every day. We will record about 70,000 different points of data in our Swim Guide database. We will convert that information into a format that means something to you: here is where it is safe to swim, and this is how you get there.
Enter the Swim Guide app for iPhone. This free app helps you find your closest beaches, know at a glance which ones are safe for swimming, and share your love of beaches with your friends.
This last part - sharing your love of beaches - is really important to us. We can’t restore and protect the world’s greatest beaches without you and your friends. We can’t celebrate and enjoy the beach culture in our own backyards without you and your friends.
In the spirit of sharing, the folks at Lake Ontario Waterkeeper went and added all of the beaches on the Great Lakes to Swim Guide. We know that people who live near one Great Lake also love to visit parks and beaches in different watersheds.
We also invited other watershed protection organizations to join our Swim Guide team. Fraser Riverkeeper tracks beaches in the Vancouver area (launching June 10, 2011). North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper tracks beaches in the Edmonton area (launching August 2011). Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper beaches in the Miami area (launching September 2011). By this time next year, we’d love to see Swim Guide in every major beach community in North America.
We built Swim Guide for one reason and one reason only: because we love your beaches. We want you to explore, enjoy and learn about the fantastic beaches near you.
Acknowledgements: Swim Guide would not be the project it is today without the tireless efforts of many volunteers and donors. For their support and inspiration, we thank Gord Downie and The Tragically Hip team, RBC Blue Water Project, Karen and Kevin Lowe, Britt Standen, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Mary Beth Postman, Dylan Neild, and Kim Samuel-Johnson. Thanks also to the numerous individual donors who support the Waterkeeper vision.
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Swim Guide blog post, Gord Downie, RBC Blue Water Project, Karen Percy Lowe, Kevin Lowe, Britt Standen, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Dylan Neild, Fraser Riverkeeper, North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper, Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper