Beach Water Quality
Lake water is not pristine, and beach water quality can fluctuate due to a number of factors including lake currents, runoff and the outflow of creeks, changing environmental factors and waterfowl and animal waste.
Additionally, Water Quality is typically poorer in the summer when the warm weather escalates bacterial growth and swimmers stir up the lake bottom.
Each summer, municipal staff collect water samples from a number of our beaches for Interior Health to test and analyze.
The District of Lake Country is also taking measures to enhance beach water quality including the implementation of a valley-wide Goose Management Plan.
A Swimming Advisory is a notice to swimmers that bacterial levels are currently higher than those allowed in the Guidelines for Canadian Recreational Water Quality. The maximum allowable number of E. coli bacteria in recreational water is 200 per 100-millilitre sample.
The risk of infection is directly related to bacterial counts in the water. When E. coli reaches 200 units per 100 millilitre sample it’s expected that one per cent of bathers may develop gastrointestinal illness (GI) if these bacteria are ingested. For every one GI illness, two to three other illnesses – skin rashes (swimmer’s itch excluded) and eye, ear and throat symptoms – can be expected. The very young, the very old and people with weakened immunity are the most susceptible.
When a Swimming Advisory is in place signage will be posted at the affected beach.
Once testing shows bacteria levels have returned to acceptable levels the Swimming Advisory will be lifted and the signage removed.
- Avoid swallowing lake water
- Avoid swimming with an open cut or wound
- Avoid swimming for 24-hours after a significant rainfall
- Stay away from the water if you are experiencing digestive or intestinal problems
- Wash your hands before handling food
Protect the Beach
- Don’t feed the birds
- Don’t take your pet to most beaches
- Don’t litter or discard food on the beach
- Change diapered children in the bathroom frequently, not at the beach
- Dispose of boat sewage in onshore sanitary facilities
- Wash your hands with soap and water after using the toilet or after changing diapers
- Never bury waste in beach sand
- Call 250-766-5650 if you see something that needs our attention
For more information on beach water quality, contact Interior Health at 250 862-4200.
Understanding Beach Water Quality
- Disease-causing microorganisms in water include bacteria, viruses and parasites (e.g. Giardia and Cryptosporidium). These disease-causing organisms can be discharged directly to water bodies or transported with surface runoff. Sources are numerous and include discharge of untreated sewage, runoff from agricultural activities and wastes from waterfowl and wild and domestic animals. Fertilizers, pesticides, and garbage can also contaminate beach water.
- Beach water quality is typically poorer in summer due to warmer water temperatures and the number of people swimming. Contamination is also more likely to increase during and after rainstorms.
- Escherichia coli (E. coli) belongs to a group of bacteria called fecal coliforms that originate in the digestive tract of warm-blooded animals. E. coli is a common human bacteria primarily used as indicator bacteria and should not be confused with E. Coli 0157:H7 which causes outbreaks of bloody diarrhea, however, there are categories of E. coli that cause diarrhea.
The Okanagan Basin Water Board (OBWB) has been responsible for Eurasian watermilfoil control in the Okanagan Basin since the 1970s. The OBWB now focuses on harvesting in the summer and rototilling the root system on shallow portions of the lakefloor in the fall and winter. Learn more about milfoil control by viewing the videos and links on their website.
Curious about how the milfoil rotovating works? CHBC’s Mike Roberts investigates.
Don’t Move a Mussel
The Okanagan Basin Water Board (OBWB) and its OkWaterWise program has launched a campaign – DontMoveAMussel.ca – aimed at informing the public about the threat of invasive zebra and quagga mussels to our waters. These invaders are NOT in the Okanagan and we want to keep it that way, recognizing that the cost to the Okanagan is estimated at $43 million/yr. at a minimum, threatening our drinking water, our aquatic infrastructure, beaches, real estate values, fishery, the lake eco-system, boats and watercraft, and tourism.