Are we allowed to swim at Ottawa beaches?
Ottawa’s beaches are open, following the recent provincial authorization to do so. However, the start of the official season (i.e. lifeguards on duty, buoys installed, water quality tested) will be later than usual. For these reasons and until then, it is “swim at your own risk”. This would be the same guidance as what would be issued in a “normal” year before the start of the official swim season.
But then why have we heard reports of police intercepting swimmers and paddlers?
Some police involvement did occur earlier in the covid crisis around enforcing public health guidelines. Now that the province of Ontario has authorized beaches to open, and that the City of Ottawa has proceeded to open beaches, police should no longer be intercepting beach-goers and swimmers.
How do I know if water quality is safe before the water testing season begins?
In short, you can’t be sure. You can reduce the risk by avoiding swimming in the 24-48 hours following heavy rains. If you haven’t already, download the Swim Guide app, or consult the web version. It is a powerful tool to learn about beaches in our watershed and to monitor their water quality in real time, once authorities resume water quality testing. Ottawa Riverkeeper is an affiliate of Swim Guide. Since regular city-run testing at Ottawa beaches will begin later than normal, Ottawa Riverkeeper itself will perform a few tests starting mid-June, and make those results available on Swim Guide as a tool to guide swimmers in their decision-making.
Which beaches in Ottawa will open?
Beaches and their restroom facilities are currently open. Britannia beach is set to close shortly for the duration of the summer – this was already planned pre-covid. People will start noticing fencing going up in the later weeks of June.
Is swimming at beaches a risk for contracting covid-19?
Maintaining social distancing is the key public health measure to follow – of course, this precaution needs to apply even when in the water. While the covid-19 virus can be detected in water, for instance downstream from sewer outflows, the risk of contracting covid-19 from the water itself is considered to be very low. To our knowledge, no such cases of transmission have been reported. Your main concern should be to steer clear (>2m) of those around you!