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Understanding Beach Water Quality

Water quality can change from day to day or even hour to hour depending on the weather and other conditions. The health unit encourages beach goers to make an informed decision about beach water quality before swimming.

The health unit regularly samples designated public beaches for bacteria. However, due to the delay in receiving lab results, beach goers cannot rely on only lab results to know if it is safe to swim. The information below will help you predict the quality of beach water during your visit.

Rain

Rain is the biggest factor to impact beach water quality. Rain washes contaminants into streams, rivers and lakes. While small amounts of rainfall are unlikely to have much impact, the health unit advises you to avoid swimming for 24-48 hours after heavy rains.

Wind

Wind can quickly build up significant waves. Wave action on any body of water can stir up sand and silt making the water cloudy. If you can’t see your feet standing waist deep in water, bacteria levels may be higher.

Waterfowl (gulls, geese etc.)

In some smaller bodies of water, or more confined areas of large lakes, the feces of waterfowl can have a significant impact on water quality.

Wet Sand and Shallow Water

Shallow bodies of water are likely to be warmer than deeper ones during the summer. Warm temperatures are more favourable for bacterial survival or growth. Bacteria levels tend to be higher in wet sand as well. Be sure to use a hand sanitizer or wash hands after playing at water’s edge.

Never swallow beach water no matter how clear the water looks!

This page has been adapted with permission from Huron County Health Unit.

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