Last week, we told you about the complicated story behind "water safety" in False Creek and the steps you can take to make an informed decision about whether or not to get IN or ON the water. While we can't tell you if the water is "safe" or "unsafe", here is what we are doing to provide you with the information you need to make such a decision.
New Water Monitoring Program
This summer Fraser Riverkeeper and Swim Drink Fish started the False Creek Water Monitoring Program— a new citizen science initiative in the heart of Vancouver. It is estimated 400,000 Canadians get sick every year from swimming in polluted waters and after the many beach closures this summer with no definitive contamination source, Vancouverites are looking for answers. Our citizen science water monitoring program allows us to take the first steps to uncover contamination causes while providing the public with frequent, current, reliable water quality data so that we may decide when to get in or on the water for ourselves.
This year, the program is run by our Vancouver Water Monitoring Coordinator and a small team of well-trained and dedicated volunteers who collect and analyze the samples. The samples are collected from July to October 2018 with plans to extend sampling season and expand the region of the program in years to come.
Presently, seven sites are sampled and were chosen for being popular, yet vulnerable, recreational water sites. At these sites, you may see stand-up paddlers falling into the water, dogs and children wading at the shallows, kayakers getting drenched by splashing water, and adventurous individuals plunging in to cool off.
- Sunset Beach - Aquatic Centre
- Brokers’ Bay
- Alder Bay
- Olympic Village Dock
- Habitat Island
- David Lam Park
- Charleson Park
Our sample results supplement the results posted weekly by Vancouver Coastal Health for three locations in False Creek: East, Central, and West. The results from our additional samples add value because:
- Samples from a higher number of locations provide more information about a waterbody's water quality. Single sample results tell us about the water quality at the precise sample location at a specific time so the more data we have for our waterbody, the better informed our decisions to recreate.
- We sample into the fall beyond the dates for Metro Vancouver's sampling program. There is a higher level of rainfall in fall months and therefore a higher risk of contamination from combined sewer overflows yet Metro Vancouver ends their sample season in September just as the rains are starting. Paddlers are active in False Creek year round and we sample into October so that we may provide the public with more data while we begin to make seasonal comparisons.
- We share as much data with the public as possible so that you may have the full water quality picture. We communicate where we sample, when we sample, and the results of those samples. Metro Vancouver shares the date that they share their samples with the public but not the date that the samples were taken. Water quality, like the weather, can change from day to day, hour to hour, so it is important to have a clear understanding of when samples were taken when making decisions to paddle or swim in the days that follow.
Results from our False Creek Water Monitoring program are shared with the public through Swim Guide, our free app and website. To find detailed sampling results each week or more information about our False Creek Water Monitoring Program, visit our website here.
As we look to next year and the expansion of our program, we will be calling on volunteers to help with water monitoring. If you're ready to play a bigger role in the stewardship of our local waters and improving data-sharing around water quality in Vancouver, contact Molly@swimdrinkfish.ca to be added to our volunteer list for next year.
See you on the water!