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Heal the Bay Launches Online Water Quality Forecasting System

System developed by water quality experts at Heal the Bay, Stanford University and UCLA

 

August 23, 2018

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Santa Monica beach near the pier often experiences poor water quality

Santa Monica, 8/22: With beach season in full swing, environmental nonprofit Heal the Bay today launched the Beach Report Card mobile application, which offers beach water-quality predictions each morning to millions of California ocean users.

The group says that its predictions come from its proprietary NowCast system, which warns the public by 7 a.m. if monitored beaches have a high likelihood of exceeding state standards for bacterial pollution that day. The NowCast system was developed by a team of water quality experts at Heal the Bay, Stanford University and UCLA, said Heal the Bay in a press release.

Swimming at a beach with high levels of bacterial pollution greatly increases the risk of contracting illnesses such as stomach flu, ear infections, upper respiratory infections and rashes. For example, an estimated 15,000 people get sick each year swimming at polluted beaches in Los Angeles County, racking up $15 million in lost wages and medical costs.

Previously, families relied on days-old monitoring data to make decisions about which beaches are safe to visit. Powered by environmental data and machine learning, the new app provides forecasts for 20 popular beaches throughout the state, from San Diego to Humboldt.

"Our NowCast predictions are the most accurate, up-to-date water quality information that California beachgoers have access to," says Ryan Searcy, Heal the Bay's lead modeler on the project. The daily NowCast functionality supplements Heal the Bay's long-running Beach Report Card program, which issues A-to-F grades for more than 400 beaches each week based on levels of harmful fecal indicator bacteria.

To access the NowCast predictions and most recent water quality grades, users can freely download the Beach Report Card app for iPhone and Android devices. In the same way that they apply sunscreen before hitting the sand, beachgoers can protect themselves by checking grades and NowCast predictions before leaving home. The pollution information is also available on Heal the Bay's beachreportcard.org website.

 

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