Did you know that the #1 reported recreational water illness,
or RWI, is contracted from chlorinated pools?
“Crypto” short for Cryptosporidium, is a microbe that causes diarrhea for up to two weeks. It is contracted from swallowing pool water that has been infected with the fecal matter of a person who is carrying the bacteria. It can survive for days in a chlorinated environment, even in properly chlorinated pools.
When we jump into a body of water, chlorinated or not, we are sharing the germs of everyone else who has jumped in before us.
The same is true for freshwater swimming, but creeks & lakes get a much worse reputation than splash pads & pools.
Why is that?
When we go to a public swimming pool or water park, we trust that the establishments are held accountable to a strict health code. Public swimming pools are required to meet a series of regulations and codes which are developed by government agencies. If they do not meet these standards they run the risk of fines, violations and even closures.
Our creeks & lakes are also held to standards set by our government.
The only difference is that there isn’t any requirement in the state of Alabama to regularly test freshwater swimming holes.
So whose job is it?
Stay up to date on your favorite swimming holes!
Since 2015, we have made it a priority for folks to know what they are swimming in. Each summer from May til the end of August we invest our time & resources to make sure that you and your family are informed of the water quality at your favorite swimming hole through our Swim Guide Program. We test for the same things that a lifeguard would test for at a swimming pool (E.coli), but numbers do not mean much if you don’t know what they correspond with!
About the Numbers
Our rating system is based on Alabama’s water quality standards for E. coli bacteria. An illness rate of 36 in 1,000 recreational users is the basis for Alabama’s water quality standards. This rating system is almost like a universal way of letting people know the likelihood they will get sick or an infection.
LOW E. COLI (LESS THAN 126 CFU)
Sites are “green” when they are meeting Alabama’s water quality standards. In this case, the likelihood of getting sick or an infection is low.
MODERATE E. COLI (126-235 CFU)
At 126 col/100mL, we change a site’s color to yellow and describe it as having “moderately high E. coli.” This level, is Alabama’s average E. coli standard. If a waterbody has a level of E. coli that is greater than this, on average, it is considered “impaired,” or, essentially, unsafe for swimming.
Starting at 126 colonies of E. coli per 100 mL of water, approximately 36 in 1,000 recreational users will contract some sort of illness. Illnesses can include swimmers ear, nausea & infection.
HIGH E. COLI (235 + CFU)
At 235 col/100mL, we turn a site’s status to red and describe it as having “high E. coli.” When more than 10% of individual samples exceed that level, that waterbody is likewise considered impaired.
Predicting whether or not someone will get sick is not as easy as a color coded system. Some people can still get sick at levels which are “green” and the majority of healthy people won’t get sick at a level which is “yellow.” So while the color coding system helps to quickly interpret the results, there’s always a risk and you should ALWAYS take precautions to swim safely.