Happy Earth Day from Swim Guide! This Earth Day, we’re reflecting on the relationship between healthy people and healthy waters, and how water that is safe for recreation also benefits aquatic ecosystems.

For years, the team at Swim Drink Fish has been asked one big question: “Where can I go swimming?” Swim Guide was created to answer that question and help people like you connect to swimmable local waterbodies.

You’ve probably read the phrase “swimmable water” on our website before. But what does it really mean?

What makes waters “swimmable”?

Swimmable waters are waters that pass recreational water quality standards. These recreational water quality standards protect us from contracting waterborne illness due to poor water quality. When water meets standards, that means it is clean enough for swimming and is also touch-able, SUP-able, paddle-able, wade-able and more. Swimmable waters are great for those of us who enjoy spending time in our local waters, but they’re also great for ecosystems.

Healthy people and healthy waters go hand in hand.

Swimmable waters support life of all kinds. The same pathogenic microorganisms (bacteria, viruses, protozoa), cyanobacteria and cyanotoxins, and other biological hazards that are dangerous to people are also dangerous to aquatic plants and animals.

Photo by Jessica Gordon

How can we create healthy people and healthy ecosystems?

Monitoring E. coli levels in freshwater and Enterococci levels in marine waters is a quick and easy way to find out the health of the water. E. coli and Enterococci are indicator bacterias, meaning that if they are present in the water, there are likely high levels of other pathogens as well. But the scientists and Public Health Units traditionally tasked with monitoring these levels at public beaches can’t test every waterbody every day.

That’s where our citizen science water monitoring hubs come in. By testing the water for E. coli, we’re more able to be aware of changes in the water over time.

We can proactively address issues that would only get worse. Testing water for swimability can identify a problem, like a nearby source of pollution nearby, and it can identify opportunities for protecting and restoring healthy water so that both people and wildlife can thrive.

Through monitoring water and letting people know where and when it is clean enough for recreation, we can ensure a swimmable, drinkable, fishable future for all.

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