Programs & Services

Swim Guide provides water quality data for over 7,000 beaches

If you are heading south this winter, you may want to check out Swim Drink Fish’s new initiative, Swim Guide, the first open data standard for recreational water quality with CIRA’s (Canadian Internet Registration Authority) Community Investment Program. 

Launched this fall Swim Guide is the first ever open data standard for recreational water quality.

“The Open Data collaboration is all about partnerships. The community of Surfrider, CIRA and Swim Drink Fish will continue to create more awareness in protecting public health,” says Mark Mattson, Swim Drink Fish Canada.

The guide is the world’s leading beach information service. It provides water quality data for over 7,000 beaches in eight countries and has nearly three million users. 

In recent years, more and more recreational water quality data is being shared in open, machine-readable formats. This improves public access to time-sensitive data and also allows recreational water quality data to become more useful and usable. To date, however, there has been little consistency in the structure of the available open recreational water quality data. This impedes the interoperability of this important beach water quality information. 

To address this issue, Swim Guide, a Swim Drink Fish initiative, developed an open data standard with funding and support from a 2017 CIRA Community Investment Grant. In addition to the Swim Guide staff, the main authors of the standard are the U.S. EPA’s Research Development team, the Surfrider Foundation, Alberta Health Services, and the River Network. The Surfrider Foundation was the first organization to use the new Swim Guide open data standard to share beach water quality data from its volunteer-led Blue Water Task Force water quality monitoring program.

“Surfrider’s main goal for monitoring beach water quality is to make sure that beachgoers have the information they need to know where it’s safe to surf and swim in the water, and to alert authorities of where pollution problems exist so they can be solved. We are really excited about the potential to reach new audiences and to amplify the impact of our data by using the new open data standard with Swim Guide,” says Mara Dias, Surfrider Foundation 

The Open Data Standard for the recreational water quality will increase data exchange, improve public awareness of water quality, and aid researchers trying to protect recreational waters.

“We are thrilled to see digital technology put to use in this innovative way to monitor beaches, rivers, lakes and Canadians’ favourite swimming spots,” says David Fowler, vice president of marketing and communications at CIRA. “Funding projects like this through CIRA’s Community Investment Program provides a tangible benefit to Canadians. In this case, it will lead to better-quality data, helping Canadians safely enjoy the beauty of our country’s recreational waterways.”

CIRA’s Community Investment Program provides over $1 million annually in grants to Canadian not-for-profits charities and academic institutions doing good things for and through the Canadian internet. To date, CIRA has provided $5.45 million supporting 130 projects. 

For more information about the open data standard, click here to visit the Recreational Water site and click here to visit the Swim Drink Fish website. For more information about Swim Guide click here. 

For more information about CIRA or to apply for the Community Investment Program click here.

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Paige LeClair

As a recent graduate from the St. Thomas University Journalism program, Paige has a passion for storytelling and investigative journalism. In 2016, she, along with her journalism team were awarded first place at the Emerge Media Awards in the multimedia category. The team was also a finalist at the Canadian Association of Journalist Awards. She is excited to work with other military spouses providing stories and information to the military community. Paige is newly married to Andrew, a Lineman, and moved to their first posting in Petawawa in May of this year. She is excited to begin this journey with Andrew, their dog Diablo, and cat, Linux

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