To understand the fate and movement of Escherichia coli in beach water, numerous modeling studies have been undertaken including mechanistic predictions of currents and plumes and empirical modeling based on hydrometeorological variables. Most approaches are limited in scope by nearshore currents or physical obstacles and data limitations; few examine the issue from a larger spatial scale. Given the similarities between variables typically included in these models, we attempted to take a broader view of E. coli fluctuations by simultaneously examining twelve beaches along 35 km of Indiana's Lake Michigan coastline that includes five point-source outfalls. The beaches had similar E. coli fluctuations, and a best-fit empirical model included two variables: wave height and an interactive term comprised of wind direction and creek turbidity. Individual beach R2 was 0.32-0.50. Data training-set results were comparable to validation results (R2 = 0.48). Amount of variation explained by the model was similar to previous reports for individual beaches. By extending the modeling approach to include more coastline distance, broader-scale spatial and temporal changes in bacteria concentrations and the influencing factors can be characterized. ?? 2008 American Chemical Society.