Windsor

Water quality at Windsor beaches can change by the hour: study

A year ago, scientists at the Great Lakes Institute of Environmental Research elicited help from citizen scientists, who collected water samples in hopes of providing more accurate health readings that can better determine when beaches should close for swimming.

Bacteria changes seasonally, or even hour by hour, says researcher studying Windsor-Essex water quality

Researchers say they have found fascinating new results in the latest water-quality testing at public beaches in the Windsor region. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

University of Windsor scientists are ready to reveal the result of a massive study designed to better understand, and protect against, water pollutants at the region's public beaches.

Last year, scientists at the Great Lakes Institute of Environmental Research elicited help from citizen scientists, who collected water samples in hopes of providing more accurate health readings that can better determine when beaches should close for swimming.

The researchers needed people who could collect daily samples of water. Paying for that kind of staffing would be a financial nightmare.

By calling on the public to help, researchers were able to get the data they needed at a much cheaper price, explained Daniel Heath, a professor of biology and the executive director of the Great Lakes Institute.

"We wanted to see how the bacterial communities changed on a day-to-day basis," he said. "Initial results show the bacterial communities change really quickly."

New water-quality tests developed by the University of Windsor could reduce the number of days beaches are closed in Windsor-Essex.

Though bacteria can change over seasons, it can also change from hour to hour, Heath explained. That means current weekly water tests conducted by the health unit, which determines when beaches close, cannot capture in full detail the complexity of pollutants. 

More of the findings will be released at a public meeting Wednesday at 1 p.m. at the Great Lakes Environment Research Centre.

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