Nowcasts are systems that inform the public of current bacterial water-quality conditions at beaches on the basis of predictive models. During 2010–12, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) worked with 23 local and State agencies to improve existing operational beach nowcast systems at 4 beaches and expand the use of predictive models in nowcasts at an additional 45 beaches throughout the Great Lakes. The predictive models were specific to each beach, and the best model for each beach was based on a unique combination of environmental and water-quality explanatory variables. The variables used most often in models to predict Escherichia coli (E. coli) concentrations or the probability of exceeding a State recreational water-quality standard included turbidity, day of the year, wave height, wind direction and speed, antecedent rainfall for various time periods, and change in lake level over 24 hours. During validation of 42 beach models during 2012, the models performed better than the current method to assess recreational water quality (previous day's E. coli concentration). The USGS will continue to work with local agencies to improve nowcast predictions, enable technology transfer of predictive model development procedures, and implement more operational systems during 2013 and beyond.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Real-time assessments of water quality: expanding nowcasting throughout the Great Lakes
U.S. Geological Survey
Ohio Water Science Center, Michigan Water Science Center