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Safer swimming in Lake Erie with water quality test system

3:45 PM, May 19, 2009   |    comments
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The Nowcast System is a bit like a weather forecast. But instead of predicting future weather conditions, the system predicts current water quality conditions.

Computer models predict whether bacteria levels are low enough to meet state bathing water standards. For 2009, the Edgewater Nowcast models will use factors such as wave height, recent rainfall, and water clarity.

The system is designed to allow for timely posting of swimming advisories.

Prior to the Nowcast System, predictions were based on NEORSD laboratory results from beach water samples collected and tested the previous day. That meant a 24-hour delay --- and bacteria levels could have increased or decreased substantially during that period.

The computer models used for Nowcast in 2009 have been recalibrated based on last year's data. NEORSD expects that the new Edgewater models will result in significantly improved prediction accuracy. 

Edgewater Beach is the second location in Ohio to implement the Nowcast System. In 2006, the Cuyahoga County Board of Health launched the system at Huntington Beach in Bay Village.

A Nowcast prediction of water quality will be provided each morning by 9:30 a.m. seven days a week beginning Monday, May 18 through Labor Day. The latest Edgewater beach water quality information can be found directly on, or by calling NEORSD's Beach Water Quality Information Line at 216-432-7301. The Nowcast prediction also will be posted at the entrance of Edgewater Beach.

Swimmers using Nowcast should know that water quality conditions can deteriorate rapidly as a result of storm conditions. The Nowcast program does not account for water quality changes which happen after the morning Nowcast is issued.

Other beaches under consideration for the Nowcast system are Villa Angela and Euclid Beach. However, the timeframe for developing the models to support Nowcast has not yet been determined.



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