Milwaukee: Water Quality Monitoring Buoy Informs Bacteria Forecasts

By on October 18, 2016
water quality monitoring buoy environmental monitoring system

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee have built a water quality monitoring buoy to help with forecasting bacteria levels. The new buoy was deployed on Lake Michigan’s Bradford Beach this past summer.

Previous research has revealed that there are some important variables to consider when trying to predict levels of bacteria. Conditions including sunlight, algae, wind, waves and turbidity are all significant for keying on, the investigators say.

To keep tabs on those parameters, the environmental monitoring system is equipped with a weather sensor and water quality sensors that can gauge conditions in real time. All of the measurements are collected and then transmitted to a website where data are available for viewing and download.

Eventually, the researchers would like to plug the data into a formula that can predict when conditions are likely to produce high levels of illness-causing bacteria. That would enable health officials to quickly close beaches and issue warnings.

But Lake Michigan’s conditions are constantly changing and forecasting bacteria levels isn’t as straightforward as it sounds. The water quality monitoring buoy, with a study area much smaller than that of the Great Lakes Forecasting System, will have its hands full predicting their changes.

The buoy, launched July 8, is the first of three such environmental monitoring systems funded by the City of Milwaukee. The beaches at McKinley and South Shore are also slated to get buoys. Investigators are hopeful that those platforms will be up and running by the coming spring.

It will be another year before the Bradford Beach formula for predicting bacteria levels will be ready to use. But scientists think that the buoys will reduce response time, cost and labor of manual water sampling in years to come.

Featured Image: A new water quality monitoring buoy deployed near Milwaukee’s Bradford Beach is helping forecast bacteria levels. (Credit: University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee)

Do you know of other projects like this one using water quality monitoring buoys to predict bacteria levels? What specific issues might the Lake Michigan area near Milwaukee present? Please consider leaving a comment to share your thoughts!

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