Philly Rivercast

Philly RiverCast is an online tool created in response to the growing role of the Schuylkill River as a recreational resource. With increased public activity and access comes increased human contact with the waterway, as well as greater public concerns about river water quality.  In response to these concerns, RiverCast provides a daily forecast of bacteria in the river and offers guidelines about appropriate recreational activities based on its forecast. In short, Rivercast allows river users to make better decisions about when — and when not — to recreate in the Schuylkill River based on water quality conditions.  

Bacteria cannot be measured in real time, so RiverCast must predict bacteria based on flow, rainfall and turbidity levels. Once a prediction is made, RiverCast produces a color rating based on the prediction. Each RiverCast color is associated with recommended recreational activities. Activities involving direct contact with the river, or primary activities, are recommended when RiverCast is green and the risk of illness is low. Activities involving less direct contact with the river, referred to as secondary contact activities, are recommended when RiverCast is yellow and the risk of illness is higher. Any contact with the river — whether through primary or secondary activities — is discouraged when the rating is red.  By providing easily accessible water quality information to the general public, RiverCast serves as an educational tool that reconnects people to the River. Water quality in the Schuylkill River has improved greatly over the past three decades, and RiverCast is available to showcase the progress being made. It also creates momentum to continue these efforts by encouraging the community to discover and enjoy this vital natural resource.

Inherent uncertainty and potential for error is associated with any forecast of water quality. Therefore, the RiverCast should be considered a guideline and general estimate of water quality at a given period of time and not a direct measurement of water quality. Other information, policies, regulations, public health statements, data, or observations should be considered in addition to RiverCast before any individual or organizational river recreation occurs. The RiverCast does not endorse or permit activities that are in violation of any City, State, and Federal policies, regulations and laws.

Click here to view Philly RiverCast. 


Work Group: Pathogens and Point Source

Date of Completion: 2005

Leading Organization: Philadelphia Water Department