To Swim or not to Swim in Ottawa? Your Swim Guide coordinator Weighs In

Ever wonder whether it's safe to swim in the Ottawa River? Here's what our Swim Guide coordinator learned about it this summer. Let's all make sure we keep on swimming safely!

As the swim season comes to an end, people trade in their towels and frisbees for notebooks and pens while still dreaming of their summer adventures. I am headed back to university, so I thought that I would tell you a little bit about what I learned as the Swim Guide coordinator for Ottawa Riverkeeper this summer.

A few weeks ago, I heard about a poll by Live 88.5 which indicated that 80% of their Facebook followers would not swim in the Ottawa River. I was SHOCKED by this and decided it was the time to pull out some of the knowledge I acquired over the summer to try to change people’s minds.

Throughout the warm season, water quality testing results filled my inbox, especially from Ottawa Public Health ̶̶ the only health unit in our watershed that tested their 5 city beaches DAILY. Every time the green “swim” icon popped up on my screen, I wanted to slip on my bathing suit and head to the beach! This happened quite often since the city of Ottawa beaches were all safe for swimming over 80% of the time!

Yes, occasionally, E.coli bacteria counts were too high and swimming was not safe but since the Ottawa River is a flowing, dynamic water body, what may have been unsafe one day, could be safe the next. Water quality can be influenced by many factors including rainfall, temperature, turbidity and bird activity.

Also, it became obvious that every beach is different, and that the best way to swim safely is to be aware! This is where Swim Guide came in handy. It is an app and website that allow you to find the closest beach and check water quality. These digital tools give you the knowledge that you need to help you make an informed decision about water quality before you go swimming! If you haven’t already downloaded the app this summer, make sure you do, it’s really great! You’ll be fully prepared for the next swim season!

I hope that all of this information has changed your mind about swimming at Ottawa’s beaches.  The river is an amazing resource and we should all take advantage of having access to clean water so close to home! Finally, I’ve had a great summer at work and on the water, how did you spend yours? We’d love to hear about your adventures on the Ottawa River!

Happy end of summer and keep on swimming safely!

Gwen Marty

One response to “To Swim or not to Swim in Ottawa? Your Swim Guide coordinator Weighs In”

  1. Wendy Laberee says:

    Thanks for your informative article Gwen. Good to know that there is an app to inform us of the water quality. It will be handy next summer.