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Public Beaches

Understanding beach water quality

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

We regularly sample designated public beaches for bacteria. However, due to the delay in receiving lab results (usually 24 hours), beach goers cannot rely on only lab results when considering what beach to visit.  The information below will help you predict the quality of beach water during your visit.

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, swimming should be avoided for 24-48 hours after heavy rains.

Wind can cause 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.

In some smaller bodies of water, or more confined areas of large lakes, the feces of waterfowl can impact water quality causing an increase in bacteria.

Shallow bodies of water are likely to be warmer and bacteria can increase quickly in warm temperatures.  Bacteria levels tend to be higher in wet sand as well. Be sure to use a hand sanitizer or wash hands if washrooms are available 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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