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Sanitary Surveys for Recreational Waters

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Background

A sanitary survey is a method of investigating the sources of fecal contamination to a water body. Sanitary surveys are often used for drinking water, shellfish, and watershed protection programs. They can also be used at beaches. Sanitary surveys help state and local program managers for beaches and other recreational waters and public health officials identify sources of water pollution, assess the magnitude of pollution, and identify priority locations for water testing.

Sanitary surveys for recreational waters involve collecting information at the beach or waterbody shoreline, as well as in the surrounding watershed.

Information that can be collected at the waterbody's edge includes data such as:
  • weather conditions
  • number of birds, dogs and people
  • location and condition of bathrooms and
  • amount of algae.
Information about the surrounding watershed may include:
  • land use
  • location of storm water outfalls
  • surface water quality and
  • residential septic tank information.

Program managers for beaches and other recreational waters can use the sanitary survey results to prioritize state or county resource allocations to help improve recreational water quality. In addition, they can use sanitary survey data (e.g., bacteria levels, source flow, turbidity, rainfall) to develop models to predict recreational water quality using readily available data.

EPA has developed routine and more comprehensive annual sanitary surveys for both fresh and marine waters. In addition, EPA has updated its recreational sanitary survey app, EPA Sanitary Survey App for Marine and Fresh Waters, which helps waterbody managers evaluate and share all contributing waterbody and watershed information, to include all four sanitary survey forms.


EPA Sanitary Survey App for Marine and Fresh Waters

EPA has updated its recreational sanitary survey app, EPA Sanitary Survey App for Marine and Fresh Waters (App), to help waterbody managers evaluate all contributing waterbody and watershed information including water quality data, pollution source data, and land use data. The data from the App can be exported for use in predictive models and for sharing within or between agencies (e.g., public health and environmental).

The App includes routine and more comprehensive annual sanitary surveys for both fresh and marine waters. The App surveys update the paper sanitary surveys for the Great Lakes and marine waters.  The App enables jurisdictions to easily gather information on possible existence of harmful algal blooms, in addition to sources of bacterial pollution.

The features and benefits of the App include:
  •  Compatibility with all mobile/handheld devices (smartphones, iPads, tablets and laptops)
  • Free to use or store data compared to other similar apps
  • Accessibility through Survey123 via Google Play, Apple’s App Store and any browser
  • Connectivity to WiFi or Internet not required for use in the field
  • Ability to include photos
  • Geolocates beach and waterbody locations
  • Ability to download data in several file formats including Shapefiles, CSV, Excel, and GeoJSON. 

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Sanitary Surveys for Marine Waters

Photo cover for marine beach sanitary survey user manual

EPA has developed a Routine On-site Sanitary Survey and an Annual Sanitary Survey that are specific to marine beaches. They are included in EPA’s Sanitary Survey App for Marine and Fresh Waters. The survey forms include detailed questions on winds, tides, and other characteristics that affect marine beaches and were not included on the surveys for fresh waters such as the Great Lakes, lakes, rivers and streams.


Sanitary Surveys for Fresh Waters

Photo cover for Great Lakes Beach Sanitary Survey Users Manual

EPA has developed a Routine On-site Sanitary Survey and an Annual Sanitary Survey that are specific to fresh (i.e., non-marine) recreational waters. They are included in EPA’s Sanitary Survey App for Marine and Fresh Waters. Although the paper survey forms are titled as Great Lakes Beach Sanitary Survey Forms, because they were developed and piloted in the Great Lakes, they can be used in any non-marine environment (e.g., lake, river, stream).

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