How Clean Is Your River? Check Swim Guide
“Right before jumping into the river, the number one question people ask us is ‘Is it clean?’” says French Broad Riverkeeper Hartwell Carson. “Swim Guide is the answer to that question.”Each week throughout the spring, summer and fall, MounainTrue’s four Riverkeepers water quality volunteers collect samples from their rivers’ most popular streams and recreation areas every Wednesday. By Friday morning afternoon, those samples are analyzed for levels of E. coli and the data is posted to theswimguide.org.
“We get the results to the public as quickly as possible because we want Swim Guide to be up to date in time for the weekend,” says Green Riverkeeper Gray Jernigan.
“E. coli bacteria makes its way into our rivers and streams from sewer leaks and stormwater runoff. The biggest culprit is runoff from animal agricultural operations with substandard riparian buffers.” explains Broad Riverkeeper David Caldwell. Heavy rains and storms often result in spikes in E. coli contamination, increasing the risk to human health.
In general, waterways that are located in more remote areas or protected public lands that lack a lot of agriculture, development or industrial pollution sources are the cleanest and will be less affected by stormwater runoff. Areas closer to development and polluting agricultural practices are much more heavily impacted.
“As it rains and the river becomes muddier, levels of bacteria pollution generally get worse,” Watauga Riverkeeper Andy explains. “But most days when the water is clear, it’s a great opportunity to get out for a swim in the river without worry.”