Beach health in Wisconsin

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Beach water-quality (beach health) data is collected both coastal and inland Wisconsin beaches. The data is collected and analyzed by multiple agencies throughout Wisconsin including local health departments, universities, state agencies, and federal agencies including the USGS.

Photo of USGS scientists testing for pathogens at Point Beach, Wis.
USGS scientists test different filtration methods for concentrating microbial indicators and pathogens in lake water samples at Point Beach, Wis.

Water recreation and associated tourism provide wide-ranging economic opportunities and societal benefits to the Great Lakes Region. Unfortunately, coastal areas can become contaminated with pathogens (disease-causing microorganisms) of fecal origin that threaten the health of people who swim in coastal waters. Beach advisories and closures are intended to protect swimmers from illness caused by fecal contamination; however, several problems face beach managers who issue advisories or closures or try to solve contamination problems:

  • Traditional lab analyses for beach water quality take too long
  • Sources of fecal contamination in recreational waters are often unknown
  • Recreational waters are seldom monitored for actual pathogens
  • Data used to study recreational waters are sometimes inconsistent between beaches

In conjunction with the Great Lakes Beach Health Initiative,  scientists explore the use of real-time assessments, nowcast modeling, source tracking, coastal-process evaluation, effectiveness of remediation activities, and multi-agency data aggregation and analysis to help solve these problems.

 

Wisconsin beach health data

Wisconsin has about 190 public beaches along the Lake Michigan and Lake Superior coastline; about 113 are regularly monitored. State park inland beaches are also monitored.

Beach water-quality (beach health) data is collected for both coastal and inland Wisconsin beaches. The data is collected and analyzed by the USGS, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the City of Milwaukee Health Department, and the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program. Data is supplied to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for use in national-level data collection. Current and historical beach-health data are available at the Wisconsin Beach Health website. You can also sign up for Wisconsin beach health email advisories or RSS feed.

Current and historical beach-health data are available at the Wisconsin Beach Health website.