A blanket approach to safe and healthy beaches.

Dec 10, 2008

Whitman, RL and MB Nevers. Summer E. coli patterns and responses along 23 Chicago Beaches. Environmental Science and Technology doi:10.1021/es8019758.

Synopsis by Niladri Basu

Studying beaches on a region-wide basis and not individually is a better way to manage beach health.

Swimming beach health can be better managed if the beaches are studied on a region-wide basis and not individually. New methods of studying beaches are needed because the status quo approach of monitoring individual beaches is challenging and costly.

Maintaining a healthy beach environment is important because the areas provide people with important recreational and commercial opportunities.

Beaches are monitored for contaminants and are usually closed when pathogens or bacteria, such as E. coli, are present in high numbers. These bacteria come from human activities and animal sources, and can sicken people.

In this study, researchers collected water samples from 23 Chicago area beaches during a five year period. Bacterial E. coli were measured in each sample. The researchers also collected hydrometerological information on, for example, wave height, Julian day and water temperature.

By relating all this information, the researchers found that E. coli levels were very similar across beaches within a common region on a given sample day.

This study shows that a region-side approach would be a more effective and feasible method of monitoring beaches for pathogens than the current approach of sampling and monitoring each individual beach.