A new online tool will help swimmers find the cleanest waters for swimming in Flathead Lake.
The Flathead Lake Biological Station, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and Flathead Lake Open Water Swimmers recently unveiled a new app and website that provide water-quality information for the lake.
Called the “Swim Guide,” the website and app help users find areas of Flathead Lake where water quality is best. In addition to Montana’s Flathead, the website currently delivers real-time water quality information for over 7,000 swimming areas in six countries, including Canada, the United States, Mexico and Australia.
In the Swim Guide Project, dedicated volunteers collect water samples from their local recreational or public swimming areas and then submit those samples to a laboratory for analysis.
Polson swimmers Mark Johnston and Dana Johnston founded Flathead Lake Open Water (FLOW) Swimmers in 2014. They were interested in conducting E. coli testing at public swim areas on Flathead Lake.
Last year, members of FLOW Swimmers collected samples from three public swimming areas in Polson — City Park, Salish Point and Boettcher Park. Once a week, they sent a sample from each location to the Flathead Lake Biological Station for E. coli testing.
This year, the number of testing locations at Flathead is expected to increase, according to Adam Baumann, lab manager at the biological station, a research arm of the University of Montana.
“It’s only going to keep growing,” Baumann said, “not only at Flathead, but surrounding lakes as well. The people who get involved with community-based science projects like this do so because they care about their local environment. In the Flathead Valley, a lot of people care about clean water, so this has a lot of potential.”
FLOW, Alpine Designs in Polson and Glenn Malloy have helped provide funding for the project. The Greater Polson Community Foundation also supports the project and accepts tax-deductible donations for the project.