For over a decade, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has been a leader in the science of beach health. The overall mission of this work is to provide science-based information and methods that will allow beach managers to more accurately make beach closure and advisory decisions, understand the sources and physical processes affecting beach contaminants, and understand how science-based information can be used to mitigate and restore beaches and protect the public. The work consists of four science elements-real-time assessments; pathogens and microbial source tracking; coastal processes; and data analysis, interpretation, and communication - which are described in this fact sheet.
Some of the key questions for USGS beach research are the following: Are there better ways to inform the public whether they can use a beach without risking their health? How do new rapid analytical methods compare to traditional methods for determining concentrations of fecal-indicator bacteria at beaches? Are pathogens present at beaches and, if so, how do they get to the beach, and what is their source? How do sand movement and wave action on the beach affect fecal-indicator-bacteria and pathogen concentrations in the lake water? What are the best indicators of pathogenic microorganisms? With so many potential sources of fecal contamination at a beach, what methods can be used to distinguish the contributions from humans? What characteristics of beaches contribute most to influencing bacterial indicator and pathogen concentrations in beach sands and groundwater?
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Understanding beach health throughout the Great Lakes-Entering a new era of investigations