Monitoring beaches for recreational water quality is becoming more common, but few sampling designs or policy approaches have evaluated the efficacy of monitoring programs. The authors intensively sampled water for E. coli (N=1770) at 63rd Street Beach, Chicago for 6 months in 2000 in order to (1) characterize spatial-temporal trends, (2) determine between and within transect variation, and (3) estimate sample size requirements and determine sampling reliability. E. coli counts were highly variable within and between sampling sites but spatially and diurnally autocorrelated. Variation in counts decreased with water depth and time of day. Required number of samples was high for 70% precision around the critical closure level (i.e., 6 within or 24 between transect replicates). Since spatial replication may be cost prohibitive, composite sampling is an alternative once sources of error have been well defined. The results suggest that beach monitoring programs may be requiring too few samples to fulfill management objectives desired. As the recreational water quality national database is developed, it is important that sampling strategies are empirically derived from a thorough understanding of the sources of variation and the reliability of collected data. Greater monitoring efficacy will yield better policy decisions, risk assessments, programmatic goals, and future usefulness of the information.
Additional publication details
Escherichia coli sampling reliability at a frequently closed Chicago beach: monitoring and management implications