The state Department of Health Clean Water Branch unveiled a new water quality alert notification system for Hawaii’s beaches with more user-friendly features today.
The new website offers up-to-date information on bacteria levels and brown water advisories along with aerial photos from Google maps. The new features were based on feedback from external stakeholders and funded by a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“This was a collaborative effort within the Department of Health and with others in the community,” said Keith Kawaoka, the department’s deputy director of environmental health in a press release. “The input we received allowed us to develop a much more robust beach monitoring and notification system that will serve as a valuable tool for the community.”
At a press conference this morning, representatives from Kyo-ya Hotels & Resorts, Hilton Hotels, Waikiki Beach Activities, Honolulu Ocean Safety & Lifeguard Services Division and Surfrider Foundation lauded the improvements.
Some of the new features include:
>> A quick overview of all active advisories in a single list.
>> Search functions that allow users to search for information by island and type of advisory.
>> Pin icons on a map that users can click on to show advisories for specific locations, as well as the date that they were posted.
>> The ability to subscribe for notifications online by hitting a button on the website instead of requesting a subscription via email.
>> Subscribers will be notified when water advisories have been cancelled. Currently they are only notified when advisories have been issued.
Kawaoka noted the website upgrade is part of a larger, more comprehensive program to eliminate manual processes and automate data analysis and said it was “just the beginning” with “more to come.”
In the future, the new system will allow users to receive notifications via text message and select the specific island and type of advisories they wish to get.
The department’s Clean Water Branch is required to establish a beach monitoring program for the state’s more than 250 beaches, and to provide public notification when bacteria levels exceed a specified threshold level. This includes advisories for temporary or permanent elevations of bacteria, sewage spills, or brown water advisories following rainy weather that cause runoff to the beaches. Signs are also posted on the beaches.
Stuart Coleman, Hawaii coordinator of the Surfrider Foundation, called the improvements “a huge milestone.”
Bob Hampton, chairman of the board, Waikiki Beach Activities, lauded the new features as a way to give Hawaii’s visitors accurate and timely information.
“The maps show visitors who are thinking about vacationing in Hawaii how water quality concerns are limited to a specific beach and do not affect the entire island,” he said in an press release. “The closure notifications that an advisory is no longer active also gives an all-clear assurance to visitors that it is OK to enjoy the beach.”