The need for rapid assessments of recreational water quality to better protect public health is well accepted throughout the research and regulatory communities. Rapid analytical methods, such as quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) and immunomagnetic separation/adenosine triphosphate (ATP) analysis, are being tested but are not yet ready for widespread use. Another solution is the use of predictive models, wherein variable(s) that are easily and quickly measured are surrogates for concentrations of fecal-indicator bacteria. Rainfall-based alerts, the simplest type of model, have been used by several communities for a number of years. Deterministic models use mathematical representations of the processes that affect bacteria concentrations; this type of model is being used for beach-closure decisions at one location in the USA. Multivariable statistical models are being developed and tested in many areas of the USA; however, they are only used in three areas of the Great Lakes to aid in notifications of beach advisories or closings. These "operational" statistical models can result in more accurate assessments of recreational water quality than use of the previous day's Escherichia coli (E. coli) concentration as determined by traditional culture methods. The Ohio Nowcast, at Huntington Beach, Bay Village, Ohio, is described in this paper as an example of an operational statistical model. Because predictive modeling is a dynamic process, water-resource managers continue to collect additional data to improve the predictive ability of the nowcast and expand the nowcast to other Ohio beaches and a recreational river. Although predictive models have been shown to work well at some beaches and are becoming more widely accepted, implementation in many areas is limited by funding, lack of coordinated technical leadership, and lack of supporting epidemiological data. ?? 2009 AEHMS.
Additional publication details
Use of predictive models and rapid methods to nowcast bacteria levels at coastal beaches