Local government agencies communicate the results of water pollution ineffectively — often up to 72 hours after the pollution has been identified and thousands of individuals have been exposed to the contamination (and only after the second round of testing confirms contamination). As a response to this problem, Surfrider Miami’s Blue Water Task Force designed citizen run sentinel health surveillance program to alert the local community and local officials about water quality problems as they are discovered.
The results coming from the BWTF lab are communicated to the local surfing community via a weekly email that is sent as soon as the lab data is read and compiled, about 18-24 hours after the samples are collected from the beach. This means that the BWTF was more than three times faster than the department of public health, which posts its results on a website that is difficult to navigate as well as in local newspapers up to three days later.
Meanwhile, the results of Surfrider Miami’s notifications were only being sent to a small portion of Miami locals (1,676 Surfrider supporter’s who had subscribed to the alerts) and the email campaigns were receiving only a 16.5 percent open rate. It turns out, most people, although interested in knowing if the water is contaminated, are more focused on checking the surf report rather than the water quality reports.
The Miami Surf Report Alexa Skill was developed as a way to increase the audience for these water quality notifications in a novel way. Let’s be honest for a second, water quality is not the most interesting thing for local surfers and beachgoers.
Through our research efforts, we realized that not many individuals were looking up the water quality results prior to heading into the ocean, so we decided to couple the delivery of our lab’s results with updates on the surf activity. So included in the skill now is the ability to check today’s surf report, the weekly surf forecast, and even the results of local water quality samples directly from the Blue Water Task Force (the original intention for distributing data to local surfers).
This skill is updated frequently by BWTF volunteers to provide surfers with the most up-to-date surf and water quality conditions. You can download online here.