Ecosystems, Water Quality and Living Marine Resources

Beach Monitoring GIS System

SC Beach WQ Site

Example of Beach Monitoring GIS System

Management Issue

State public health agencies, in conjunction with local governments, routinely monitor the bacterial water quality of the Southeast’s ocean swimming beaches. These monitoring data are used to post swimming advisories, with the goal of allowing the public to make informed decisions concerning recreating in waters presenting a potential for adverse health effects. Per current EPA guidelines, agencies test for the bacterial indicator, Enterococcus, to determine bacterial water quality and issue water quality swimming advisories. The method used to determine Enterococcus concentrations requires a 24-hour incubation period before results can be assessed. Decision makers are therefore issuing and lifting advisories based on the previous day’s water quality. In partnership with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC), a collaborative team including the University of South Carolina and University of Maryland, is enhancing a user application with new models and an automated, database driven tool for bacteria estimates and visualization of model results for enhanced prediction and analysis of this public health concern.


The project builds on previous efforts and incorporates new models that provide rainfall estimates using radar-based data which can be averaged over a watershed area. These radar data provide improvements to existing tools by allowing spatial estimates to be averaged over the relevant watershed area instead of applying point estimates and allowing for automated integration of remotely sensed data, eliminating the need for SCDHEC’s costly and time consuming maintenance of the rain gauge network.

A dynamic database is being developed that integrates the real and near-real time ocean observing data (including air temperature, water temperature, wind direction) and predictive models and executes the equations and decision tools specified in the models. GIS-based tools allow direct access to monitoring data, the models, and user-friendly presentations to provide processed information required for making swimming advisory decisions.


SCDHEC has implemented the initial suite of pre-emptive beach swimming advisory models as a tool in determining the issuance of beach swimming advisories in Horry County, SC on an operational basis from May 15 through October 15 (beach swimming season). Benefits to SCDHEC include eliminating the need for updates and maintenance of the rain gauge network; improved timeliness by providing robust decision support well in advance of verification by biological sample cultures; and improved accuracy by providing reliable forecasts of beach hazards meriting closures, with reduced false positives. These tools are also eliminating unwarranted advisories that negatively impact coastal economic and tourist activity.

"This model has reduced the sampling burden for our Regional staff; but the major benefit has been the Department's quicker response time for posting beach advisories and subsequent enhancement of our agency's primary mission of protecting the public health."

David E. Wilson, PE
Chief, Bureau of Water, SCDHEC

Future Development

While the specific geographic focus of this effort is on swimming beaches in SC, the techniques implemented and tools developed are transferrable to other swimming beaches in the Southeast. Scientists would also like to increase observing asset (i.e., buoys and radar) coverage for improved spatial resolution of data; assess utility of modeled output for salinity and currents; and understand beachgoer data (i.e., who is using the beach).


SCDHEC Beach Monitoring Program

Beach Water Quality Portlet - A Collaborative effort funded by SECOORA

Basic Observation Buoy (BOB): Educational Water Quality Monitoring


What is BOB?

Basic Observation Buoy (BOB) is a floating platform with capacity to carry a suite of environmental sensors. BOB can be moored to bottom or to a dock in quiet waters. Based on concepts developed by Doug Levin, Ph.D., located at NOAA’s IOOS (Integrated Ocean Observing System) Program Office, BOB is an exciting collaborative among SECOORA scientists and educators.

The BOB project involves precollege to undergraduate level student-designed, built and deployed buoys that host data collection, storage, and transmission capabilities.

The target cost for a BOB is $1500, inclusive of the buoy structure, sensor(s), data storage, and transmission

Sensors determine the parameters collected by BOB and may include meteorological parameters, as well as wind speed and conductivity/salinity, dissolved oxygen, pH, chlorophyll A, and turbidity.

BOB I Workshop: Selecting instruments for BOB, Image Credit: Lundie Spence

Background Documents

A Manual for Building a BASIC OBSERVATION BUOY (BOB)

Basic Observation Buoy (BOB) Objectives for 2010

BOB/FLO Sensor Suggestions

Building Buoys for Observing and STEM Education (August 17, 2009 MTS-IEEE Oceans Conference Proceedings)

Build-A-Buoy (BABs) Content Based, Hands-On, Education for Kindergarteners

Guide to the Elementary Basic Observation Buoy (eBOB)

BOB in Action

Email to add your projects here!

  • BOB has been incorporated into undergraduate and graduate courses at UNC-Wilmington
  • Old Dominion University (ODU) Project SEARCH (Science Education Advancing Research of the Chesapeake Bay and its Habitats) uses BOBs to collect water quality data.  Visit the Web site for images, documents, and more.
  • There is an after school BOB Club at Beaufort High School in South Carolina.  Beaufort BOB project highlighted in the Beaufort Gazette: Student buoy project keeps Beaufort River data collection afloat
  • University of North Florida developed a"Pro-BOB" which collects EPA-quality data
  • Mary Baldwin College has a NOAA Bay Watershed Education and Training (B-WET) project in land use and water quality for teacher education working with Governor’s School.

The Future of BOB

  • Plan future design-oriented workshops that also focus on data entry protocols and research applications of BOBs.
  • Develop a citizen scientists network for monitoring.
  • Develop hubs for professional development workshops to extend BOB as a STEM activity to K-12 educators.
  • Sustain and further the BOB community, via SECOORA Web site and social networks, e.g., blog and Facebook.

For more information

 Contact Lisa Adams at Kennesaw State University.

BOB II Workshop: Deploying a BOB with Pasco Sensors, Image Credit: Megan Treml

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