Just how clean are European beaches? Now, the European Environment Agency's 'Eye on Earth', with the help of the public, is telling us.
Features such as 'Water Watch' now allow people from all over Europe and the world to log on line and compare the cleanliness of water and beaches from sites across 12 European countries.
This application not only helps people in their choices of where to swim, but also aids them in influencing their environment in a positive way. Governments and environmentalists will be able to pin-point problem areas and subsequently take the necessary action.
'Eye on Earth delivers the kind of information that the public can really understand,' said Professor Geoffrey Lipman, spokesperson of the UN World Tourism Organization. 'Using the application, people can now find out what is happening on the beach near them or the one they plan to visit on holiday. Water Watch demonstrates how technology can develop our understanding of the world around us and lets us make informed choices on the kind of environment we want to live in or visit.'
Eye on Earth successfully intertwines the latest scientific information together with the feedback and observations of ordinary people. In practice what this means is that anybody can log on and give their own ranking as to how clean a particular beach is. The site currently includes information on the water quality for more than 21 000 bathing sites throughout Europe. Historical data spanning several years is also available.
The platform is the result of a partnership between the European Environment Agency (EEA) and Microsoft. It aims to strengthen a European Directive on environmental quality standards for water, which itself comes under the auspices of the Water Framework Directive approved by the European Parliament on 17 June this year.
'As environmental problems become more evident and affect the lives of ordinary individuals, it is vitally important that we can access relevant and timely information on the impact of environmental change,' said Jacqueline McGlade, Executive Director of the EEA. 'With Eye on Earth, the EEA and Microsoft plan to bring complex strands of information together into a single, simple to use and easy to understand application - so as more data and user findings are posted on the portal we can see how climate change affects the way we live, and how the way we live affects the environment.'
Countries included are Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Portugal, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain and the UK, with even more countries expected to join in the near future. In order to allow users to easily rate beaches a colour coded 'traffic light' ranking system is used. A green thumbs up is good, amber indicating average and a red circle with a thumbs down indicating bad beach conditions.
'Poor-quality bathing water is a real risk to everyone's health and can prevent us from enjoying our seas and rivers,' said Ben Skinner, International Longboard champion and member of the British Surfing Association team. 'For the first time, Eye on Earth's Water Watch not only gives us the ability to know what we are going to find when we get into the water, but also provides us with the information we need to demand urgent action from governments, businesses and individuals. The partnership between the EEA and Microsoft is giving us the resources to force change and protect our natural environment.'
Eye on Earth is a positive example of how the EU and people can work together for a common cause through the use of technology. It is providing people with much desired information, information which was previously only available through word of mouth.
This application is keeping people more informed giving them the power to take appropriate actions to help ensure a cleaner environment. www.eyeonearth.eu