Coastal waters, fresh water and other untreated recreational water venues

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Recreational water venues such as oceans, lakes, and rivers, attract large numbers of users. Usage is higher in the summer months, although recreational water activities such as swimming, water skiing, surfing, wakeboarding etc., can take place year-round. These venues are not subject to specific legislation the way that man-made treated recreational water venues such as swimming pools and hot tubs are. However, broader public health legislation could be applied where a health hazard exists. Partaking in activities in untreated recreational water can present public health risks that may result in injury, illness, or death, and include:

  • Physical hazards e.g., rocks, logs or other debris, as well as the bottom of shallow water bodies that can result in injury or drowning;
  • Biological hazards e.g., pathogenic bacteria, viruses, and protozoa. E. coli is the most common cause of outbreaks associated with untreated recreational water (CDC, 2017);
  • Chemical hazards e.g., contaminants introduced by a spill or discharge, or exposure to cyanobacterial toxins.

The resources presented below provide information on hazard identification, water quality monitoring, and public notification. When these aspects are addressed using best practices, the risks to users are reduced.

NCCEH Resources

  • Cyanobacteria in Freshwater (2017)
    This webpage links to information and resources related to cyanobacteria and cyanotoxins in recreational and drinking water sources.

Selected External Resources

Peer-Reviewed Articles

This list is not intended to be exhaustive. Omission of a resource does not preclude it from having value.

Last updated Aug 21, 2019