UCD research powers water quality app for swimmers across Ireland

25 Jul 2019

From left: Former Irish Olympic swimmer Andrew Bree with Scott Riley of the Team Dash and Splash swim group at Skippingstone beach in Bangor, Co Down. Image: Liam McBurney/PA Media

The EU Swim app provides water quality information as increasing numbers are taking to the seas across Ireland.

A new smartphone app that allows sea swimmers to check bathing water quality has been praised as a “fantastic asset”.

The EU Swim app includes information on nine beaches across Ireland, from Co Sligo to Co Down, and is the result of a cross-border research programme led by University College Dublin (UCD). It comes during an increase in popularity in sea swimming across the island.

The pilot initiative combines the expertise of UCD and Northern Ireland project partners Agri-Food & Biosciences Institute and Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful. It is funded under the EU’s Interreg VA Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body. It is also supported by the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland and the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government in Ireland.

Dr Rosemarie Gannon, EU Swim project manager, said it is the first app of its kind.

“The EU Swim app is unique because it is the first time that there is an app that provides bathing water quality information at selected beaches in the north and south of Ireland,” she said.

Simple, convenient and reassuring

Gannon is based at UCD, where three schools are involved in the project: the School of Computer Science, the School of Civil Engineering, and the School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science.

The specially designed app employs automatic web updates and real-time communication via alert services delivered through electronic signage installed strategically at beach entrances.

In all, nine beaches are involved in the whole-island project: Enniscrone in Co Sligo; Lady’s Bay in Co Donegal; Castlerock, Portrush East Strand (also known as Curran Strand) and Waterfoot in Co Antrim; Ballyholme, Ballywalter and Newcastle in Co Down; and Clogherhead in Co Louth.

Gannon said the app helps to make a connection between the beaches across Ireland and show their similarities, thereby strengthening cross-border links.

“The app is a simple and convenient way to find out if the water is clean at selected beaches,” she said. “It gives reassurance to beach-goers and can help them to enjoy their time at the beach and in the water even more.”

Daily sea swimmer Marie-Therese Davis-Hanson from Bangor, Co Down, said the app is a “fantastic asset”.

“I’ve used the new app to reassure other open water swimmers and potential open water swimmers about water cleanliness, specifically in Ballyholme,” she said.

“The app will prove to be invaluable to my swim buddies and I think it’s a fantastic asset to our open water swimming community network, which is growing daily.

“Lots of new sea swim groups are learning about the sea, tides, currents, beach profiles, water quality and safety etc from myself and the app.”

The app can be downloaded for free, from the App Store and Google Play.

– PA Media, with additional reporting by Elaine Burke