About Swim Guide: A Swim Drink Fish Initiative

About Swim Drink Fish

As a volunteer-led group, the Swim Drink Fish vision of creating swimmable, drinkable, fishable water for everyone started with people. It’s this vision that has connected people to the water’s edge and given communities access to their local waters. Our vision has come to fruition, and continues to grow, thanks to the power of community-based action.

We use the tools of a diverse group of passionate water lovers with the same goal in mind: swimmable, drinkable, fishable water for everyone. Our vision has never wavered, and that’s why the past is powering our present and the future, as we continue to look forward with people powering us there.

What We Do

Our apps and programs, like Swim Guide, connect communities with the water and with other people. We teach communities to monitor the health of their water. Together, we advocate for the protection and restoration of the places we love. We focus on water because all communities need swimmable, drinkable, fishable water to thrive. We empower people because it takes a community to protect water.

1. What is Swim Guide?

For years, the team at Swim Drink Fish was asked one big question: "Where can I go swimming?"

We thought it would be easy to find the answer. We were wrong. As it turns out, reliable facts and figures about beach water quality are hard to come by. So, we started compiling our own.

We packaged up this newly compiled information and created Swim Guide; your one-stop shop for beach and water quality information. Years after our first data point was collected, we are still checking hundreds of water quality sources daily so you can connect with the water.

We believe that every person should be able to swim at any beach without having to worry about health risks. People are vulnerable to illness and infection when they can't get current, reliable water quality information. When water isn't safe to touch, people also withdraw from it.

When the connection between you and your water fades, so does your instinct to protect it.

Swim Guide has helped prevent thousands of waterborne illnesses simply by making it easy for people to know when their water is contaminated and when it is clean for swimming.

As of 2020, Swim Guide is the most popular beach information service in the world.

You can use Swim Guide's free website, or download the smartphone app for iOS and Android.

2. Where is Swim Guide active?

With help from our 100 affiliates, Swim Guide delivers free up-to-date water quality information for over 10,000 beaches, lakes, rivers, and swimming holes.

Swim Guide is currently active in Canada, the U.S., Mexico, the Bahamas, Costa Rica, Ireland, France, Denmark, New Zealand, Australia, and Kenya.

Swim Guide is available in English, French, and Spanish.

If you'd like to join the Swim Guide affiliates program, click here for details.

3. How do I use Swim Guide?

Swim Guide is easy to use and offers water quality information for a wide variety of beaches, ranging from city parks to remote lakes.

To find the beach that's just right for you, browse the map or search for a beach by name. In the app, you will also find a list of beaches closest to you.

You can also click here to browse for beaches by region, province, state, or territory.

On every Swim Guide beach page, you will find the latest water quality information, an integrated map, and weather updates. You will also have access to customized information relevant to your particular beach, such as amenities, lifeguards, how to get there, and where to park.

Have a favourite beach? Bookmark it! The next time you use the app, it will show up at the top of the beach list, making it easier for you to access information.

Make sure to share your love of beaches with friends and family using our built-in social media sharing tools.

To receive updates on new Swim Guide features and special offers, subscribe to the Swim Drink Fish newsletter.

4. How do I know if my beach meets water quality standards?

Beach water quality is like the weather: it changes all the time. That's why it is important to check water quality every time you plan a trip to the beach.

Bacteria is the main indicator of beach water quality problems. When bacteria levels are high, your risk of contracting an illness is higher, and fish and birds may be threatened. When bacteria levels are low, people and wildlife are safer.

Water samples are collected and bacteria levels are compared to the regional government standards. Each beach is given a "pass" or "fail" rating until the next samples are collected. Swim Guide collects this information from government, nonprofit, corporate, and Swim Drink Fish's own monitoring programs, and shares it with you.

On each beach page, you will see a little swimmer icon. Based on the colour of this icon, you will know instantly whether you beach has met government water quality standards.

Current Status

On each beach page, you will also find information about when your beach was last tested and which Swim Guide affiliate is responsible for verifying the water quality at this location.

Current Status - Good

Green means the beach’s most recent test results met water quality standards

Current Status - Bad

Red means the beach’s most recent test results failed to meet water quality standards

Current Status - Unknown

Grey means water quality information for the beach is too old (more than one year old) to be considered current, or that info is unavailable or unreliable.

Historical Status

When swimming season is over, or when a beach’s water quality data has not been updated on the normal schedule (e.g., weekly), it goes into historical status. This means that rather than displaying out-of-date data, it displays the beach’s average water quality for that year.

Historical Status - Good

Green means the beach passed water quality tests 95% of the time or more

Historical Status - Medium

Yellow means the beach passed water quality tests 60–95% of the time

Historical Status - Bad

Red means the beach failed water quality tests 40% of the time or more

Special Status

We may manually set the status for a specific beach if we have concerns about the sampling protocol, if there is an emergency, if monitoring practices don’t exist or have recently changed, or other reasons that render the beach status “special”.

Special Status - Good

Green means the beach has historically excellent pristine water quality, but there is no current data

Special Status - Bad

Red means the water at the site has water quality issues or there is an emergency

Special Status - Unknown

Grey means there is no current water quality information, the beach is under construction, or there has been an event that has rendered water quality information unreliable or unavailable

5. What do I do if I notice a problem at my beach?

If you are concerned about water quality, litter, minor spills, or other problems, let us know using the pollution reporting tool in Swim Guide. This will alert your local affiliate to environmental problems. (In an emergency, always notify the appropriate authority.)

Simply find you beach on Swim Guide, and click the "Report Pollution" button. Fill out the short form and submit it to our team. We will be in touch as soon as possible to address your concern.

As well as guiding you to the best swimming spots, Swim Guide is dedicated to identifying sources of water pollution so that together we can act to restore and maintain swimmable, drinkable, fishable waters.

6. How can I help to keep Swim Guide going?

Swim Guide is a Swim Drink Fish initiative. In order to keep Swim Guide free, we need your help. Please donate to Swim Guide today. Every dollar helps!

The Royal Bank of Canada is a premier partner of Swim Drink Fish through their 'Tech for Nature' program and the RBC Foundation. With RBC's support, Swim Guide has been able to expand its capacity and develop new tools on its platforms, including pollution reporting tools, new beach submission tools, and new beach navigation features. Read more about Swim Drink Fish's partnership with RBC.

Have you noticed pollution at your local beach? Let us know.