Beach, water conditions at your fingertips, thanks to new monitoring service by Save The Bays, WaterKeepers Bahamas

Thinking about a swim? There’s an app for that. For the past two months, Save The Bays and Waterkeepers Bahamas have been monitoring 16 beaches on New Providence, Grand Bahama and Bimini, collecting and testing water samples to check for bacteria and ensure safe swimming conditions and shoreline activities.

            The testing and reporting are part of an international program known as Swim Guide, produced by an organization that provides information on 7,000 fresh water and marine beaches in New Zealand, Canada, the U.S., Mexico, and now The Bahamas. The information it shares ranges from historic perspective on weather, tides, water quality and conditions to current levels of Enterecoccus (bacteria). In some places where there are specific issues, swim guide tests for sewage pollution as it does at a popular beach where the water is no longer fishable in Canada.

“We couldn’t be more excited to announce that, thanks to Save the Bays and Waterkeepers Bahamas, recreational water quality information for the Bahamas is now available to the public. The Bahamas is the fifth country to join Swim Guide. And Waterkeepers Bahamas and Save the Bays are our first Swim Guide affiliate in the Bahamas,” said Gabrielle Parent-Doliver, Swim Guide editor. “Thanks to their work, Swim Guide users have access to information about the quality of the water in the Bahamas. Their sampling program is critical providing the public with information about the quality of the waters, which will allow them to take precautions to protect their health when water is contaminated.”

According to Waterkeepers Bahamas Executive Director Rashema Ingraham, the testing has been smooth, revealing healthy conditions in those beaches tested to date.

“What makes the swim guide site or app so helpful is that the information is real time up to date,” said ingraham. “I posted sample results from the main beach at Alice Town, Bimini at 3:37 today, about an hour ago, so people can see how current it is. If the water sample is more than seven days old, instead of a green icon meaning it’s safe to jump in or eat the fish from that water, it will have a gray icon indicating test results are too old to be useful. There will also be a place where you can easily see if the waters on that beach have passed the safety test 95% of the time.”

Chairman of Save The Bays Joe Darville believes the monitoring service should be an asset for The Bahamas and an aid for officials.

“Both the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Health will be able to benefit from our regular testing which has to be done every week with samples run through the lab equipment that we maintain,” said Darville. “We will be pleased to share the results with officials and we are honoured that Save The Bays and Waterkeepers Bahamas were selected as the official monitoring and reporting organisations. This makes The Bahamas the only country in the region that can say it reports on the safety of its waters on 16 of its most popular beaches every week. And we would not be able to do this without the network of volunteers we have, including the cadets who have graduated from our marine environmental programs in Grand Bahama.”

Along with a description about the individual beaches and any threatening weather conditions that could impact recreational activities, the reporting shows safety or warning based on Enterococcus count per 100 ml water. Too high a count can lead to a variety of infections including urinary tract infections, bacteremia, endocarditis, and meningitis. Results are posted on swimguide.org and on Save The Bays website and Waterkeepers.org.

A complete list of the beaches being monitored is available on any of the three sites or on any of the three organisations’ Facebook pages. 

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