As heard Aug. 24, 2012, on Friday Edition, Q-90.1 FM, Delta College, NPR-member station (starts at 4:50) …
Measurements of high bacteria levels at Great Lakes beaches aren’t always correct.
That’s according to a University of Michigan researcher who is helping develop a more accurate forecasting tool.
The new tool could significantly reduce the number of days that Great Lakes beaches are closed due to inaccurate assessments of E. coli bacteria levels, says David Rockwell.
He estimates that almost one of every four beach closings due to high bacteria levels are incorrect on the Great Lakes, due in part to the time it takes to generate results from current testing methods. Rockwell says those mistakes would be corrected with his E. coli forecasting tool.
The new tool is called the Forecast Decision Support System. Testing has shown the tool is more accurate than current beach-monitoring methods about 70 percent of the time.
The U of M testing method was developed with $140,000 from the federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
The tool is being tested this summer at five beaches, including the Bay City State Recreation Area in Bay County’s Bangor Township.
The forecasting tool uses equations to forecast water-quality four times per day. Forecasts are generated using almost 100 environmental variables, including rainfall amounts, cloud cover, wind direction and speed, the direction and speed of currents in the lake, and wave heights.
The forecasts taken this summer will be compared with actual E. coli bacteria levels measured by water samples to further test the accuracy of the tool, officials say.
Other testing is taking place at North Beach Park and Grand Haven State Park in Ottawa County, and Memorial and Metro beaches in Macomb County.
— More U of M Great Lakes research
Where does Great Lakes water go, and how does it flow?
Michigan Technological University and Arizona State University are leading a three-year research study to develop a way to track water flows and water use in a watershed.
The Great Lakes provide the foundation for billions of dollars in economic activity and are a direct source of drinking water for tens of millions of people, including residents of the Saginaw Bay region, Michigan Tech researchers note.
The Virtual Water Accounting project is being undertaken to comply with terms of the an international Great Lake-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact, which restricts water diversions from the Great Lakes and requires state and provincial management of water resources.
To comply with the Compact, U.S. states and Canadian provinces must determine whether a proposed new withdrawal and consumptive use may have a significant adverse impact to the water resource and whether the proposed use is reasonable considering economic development and environmental protection.
The project will examine how water moves through the watershed, the minimum water levels needed to sustain ecosystems, and how water is used by the region’s economy, researchers say.