EU SWIM Project launches during the 2019 Bathing Water Season
Debra Castles tells us about the EU SWIM Project – an innovative cross-border project that wants to change how bathing water quality is monitored, by using predictive models to give near real-time results.
During the bathing water season from 1 June 2019 the EU SWIM project will provide invaluable, real-time information on water quality for the public on both sides of the border. There are currently nine SWIM beaches. Three are in the Republic: Enniscrone (Co Sligo), Lady’s Bay (Co Donegal), and Clogherhead (Co Louth); six are in Northern Ireland; Castlerock (Co Antrim), Portrush – Curran (Co Antrim), Waterfoot (Co Antrim), Ballyholme (Co Down), Ballywalter (Co Down), Newcastle (Co Down). Some of these beaches have Blue Flag status, and this project will complement and reinforce the standards that users expect when they visit these beaches to enjoy all they have to offer.
The project is funded by the INTERREG VA Programme which focuses on overcoming the issues that arise from the existence of a border, including environmental issues. The EU SWIM Project will make a significant contribution towards meeting the EU’s Bathing Water Directive, and therefore contribute towards our shared seas being safer places to swim and enjoy.
The EU SWIM Project combines the expertise of lead partner University College Dublin, and Northern Irish project partners Agri- Food Biosciences Institute and Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful. The project aims to develop a system that will allow bathers to check the water quality of their chosen bathing spots live before taking a dip. Developing a bathing water quality prediction model will directly tie into software to support the collection of data and delivery of information to the public.
Professor Gregory O’Hare of University College Dublin explains
“The EU SWIM Project is not only developing a bathing water prediction model and enabling water sampling and microbial tracking, it will also result in the creation of an app and with real-life updates on the new website; which crucially promotes good management, environmental standards and sustainability for beaches on the island of Ireland.”
Cross Border School Collaboration
As part of the project two weather stations have been deployed close to 2 of the EU SWIM beaches at Scoil Chríost Rí, Enniscrone, County Sligo and St Patrick’s Primary School near Waterfoot beach in Glenariff, County Antrim. This approach has facilitated an exciting cross border aspect, as both schools can link up and share data coming from their SWIM weather stations and compare their results. During beach visits in October 2018 the EU SWIM team had the opportunity to spend time looking at the instalment at St Patrick’s and talking to the children about how the data works.
The principal of St Patrick’s Primary School, Roisin McCarry, kindly facilitated a demonstration of the weather station data to the pupils and she commented “at the minute, St. Patrick’s Primary School is the only school in this area to have a weather station. The information is very detailed for primary school use, but we hope that by working with UCD, AFBI and Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, we will be able to come up with ways to use the data in our projects on weather, the environment as well as linking with other schools to work on joint projects”.
Weather Stations and River Sensors
A major element of the programme roll out has been the deployment of the weather stations to assist with the predictive element in conjunction with the river sensors and gauges. There has also been a wide collaboration with other partners to gather as much predictive data as possible, for example. Northern Ireland Water, EPA, OPW, Met Eireann and Acclimatize, another INTERREG-funded project at UCD.
The water quality updates will be going live for the bathing water season between June and September 2019.
Debra Castles, Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful
Phone: 02890 736920
Wayne Egan’s work on Enniscrone Beach, which is informing the EU SWIM project, was previously covered in the Catchments Newsletter, see www.catchments.ie/assessing-the-impact-of-the-bellawaddy-river-on-the-microbiological-quality-of-the-bathing-waters-of-enniscrone-beach-co-sligo/
Project Funding: this research takes place across sites in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland – a cross-border initiative supported by the EU’s INTERREG VA funding scheme. The project is match-funded by the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) in Northern Ireland and the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government in Ireland.