What is SWIM?
SWIM stands for Swim Where It’s Monitored. It’s a program that we at Mobile Baykeeper started so we could test water quality at popular swimming holes in and around Mobile Bay, Alabama. But we do more than test the water - we inform interested citizens about our results and if they’re high, we look for solutions. You can receive our weekly “SWIM report” in your email by subscribing here. You can also bookmark this page or download the Swim Guide App from the App Store or Google Play Store to see the latest results.
ADEM (the Alabama Department of Environmental Management) collects bacteriological information for 25 sites on Mobile Bay and the Gulf Coast. However, little information exists about many areas, especially popular swimming holes in rivers and other waterways. To fill in these gaps, Mobile Baykeeper started SWIM so that local communities could sponsor bacteriological monitoring at sites of their choosing. Once a week during warmer (swim season) months, and once a month during winter, the Baykeeper AmeriCorps Patrol Team collects water quality data at each of these sponsored sites.
Currently, the Patrol Team goes to six sites in both Mobile and Baldwin Counties. They carefully collect water samples to test for Enterococcus (a bacteria indicating fecal contamination). They then analyze these samples in the Mobile Baykeeper laboratory. They also gather data on water temperature, pH, optical brighteners, and total dissolved solids. All of these values can be found on the Mobile Baykeeper SWIM webpage.
SWIM is a vitally important program because it empowers citizens to protect the health of their families when deciding when and where to swim, fish or kayak. Without SWIM, there’s no information about levels of bacteria at many popular swimming holes.
Currently, the Town of Magnolia Springs sponsors two sites on the Magnolia River. Stephens Foundation sponsors two sites in Dog River, and a group of families led by Jay Watkins sponsors two sites in Point Clear. The Connect Mobile class of 2019 is fundraising to sponsor testing at Chickasabogue Park.
How can you participate?
We know there are still popular swimming sites in Coastal Alabama that are not monitored by ADEM or Mobile Baykeeper. To make it easier to get data on your favorite swimming hole, Mobile Baykeeper has a sponsorship program that allows businesses, municipalities, civic organizations, or individuals to sponsor testing at the site of their choice. To sponsor your own SWIM site please email ckistler@mobilebaykeeper and see the below table for sponsorship benefits.
You can receive our weekly “SWIM report” in your email by subscribing here. You can also bookmark this page or download the Swim Guide App from the App Store or Google Play Store to see the latest results. Remember to check before you head out to swim or play in Coastal Alabama!
Our work with SWIM doesn’t stop with monitoring your favorite swimming hole. At sites where we are conducting SWIM monitoring, we are always investigating the sources of high bacteria. We evaluate the watershed, map land use, known septic tanks, and sewer lines, and evaluate what potential sources may be causing elevated bacteria levels. If we can determine likely sources, we work with the local community to find funding, definitively identify sources, and eliminate them to improve water quality.
We are already making headway in our work with the Town of Magnolia Springs. Are you ready to start finding and working to stop sources of high bacteria in your area? Sponsor a SWIM site today.