Swim Guide app finds the cleanest swimming areas in Flathead Lake

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    Flathead Lake is one of Montana's premier summertime destinations, famous for its stunning scenery and clean water, but just how clean is the water?

    Thanks to the work of a group of local volunteers, there's an app people can use to find out.

    Polson's Joslyn Shackelford swims regularly in Flathead Lake with her daughter.

    "She's in the water about 3-4 times a week and I am in about 1-2," Shackelford said.

    Now an app can tell her how clean the water is.

    "Just the confidence in knowing that our children are safe and for my well-being too, being an expectant mom that the water is clean and ready to play in," Shackelford told NBC Montana.

    The swim guide app gives the weather and water quality for 7,000 beaches.

    Mark Johnston of the Flathead Lake Open Water Swimmers is an affiliate of the Swim Guide app and helped put Flathead Lake on the app two years ago.

    "I thought it would be a good thing for me to do since I pretty much put my face in the water for 6-7 months out of the year," said Johnston.

    Johnston, along with other volunteers, work as citizen scientists. They test the water weekly for 10 weeks of the year. They collect the temperature, fill a tube and take it to the Flathead Lake Biological Station.

    They test for e-coli, then Johnston uploads the results to the app, giving swimming areas a green for go or red for no.

    "Essentially, in real time on a weekly basis, find out if there is anything they should be worried about," Johnston said.

    They are currently testing six swimming areas in Polson Bay.

    "There's some swimming groups at the north end of the beach that are already hoping to start on Monday and are going to be testing at Volunteer Park in Lakeside, Somers Bay and Wayfarers State Park in Bigfork," Johnston told NBC Montana

    Each test costs $35 and businesses sponsor the app to pay for the cost. Shackelford’s business, Alpine Landscaping and Design, is one of the sponsors. Johnston said in the future they will likely look at having businesses sponsor a specific beach.

    For more information on the app and to check out water quality in Flathead Lake, click here.

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