Public beaches are monitored for physical hazards and sources of contamination.
Regular water samples are collected on a weekly basis during the spring and summer months, to monitor the bacteriological quality of the water to determine whether or not a beach is in compliance with the Guidelines for Canadian Recreational Water Quality. It is recommended to beach operators that they post warning signs if the beach conditions are considered unsatisfactory for physical, chemical or biological reasons.
Fraser Health uses E. coli as the indicator for both marine and fresh water beaches.
Primary contact area
A primary contact area as defined in the Guidelines for Canadian Recreational Water Quality is where the whole body or the face and trunk are frequently immersed or the face is frequently wetted by spray, and where it is likely that some water will be swallowed. This includes swimming, surfing, waterskiing, whitewater canoeing/rafting/kayaking, windsurfing or subsurface diving.
Geometric mean of less than or equal to 200 E.coli bacteria / 100ml
Geometric mean of greater than 200 E.coli bacteria / 100ml, and/or a series of single sample results that exceed a maximum of 400 E.coli bacteria / 100ml and an assessment of the beach conditions has been done by Fraser Health. Swimming and activities listed above are not recommended.
Only beaches that have as a geometric mean will be listed. The geometric mean is a calculation that is based on a minimum of five samples. If a beach is not listed below, it means that the beach is not routinely sampled, or less than five samples have been submitted this season.
Frequently asked questions
Can you tell me about how recreational water sampling is conducted?
Water samples are taken on a weekly basis during the spring and summer months. Sampling is done at the same general location each time, but the time of day and day of the week can vary to allow for a better picture of water quality at the sampling location. Sampling provides a snapshot of the water quality at a specific point in time at a specific location. It helps give a broad indicator of the overall water quality at a location, but is not a definitive statement of the entire body of water.
What is E.coli?
E.coli is a bacterium that is commonly present in the intestinal tract of warm-blooded animals and humans.
What does it mean when there is E.Coli present in a recreational sample?
E.Coli is an indicator fecal contamination of the recreational water, which contains disease-causing bacteria. It has been shown that there is a risk of contracting illness to swimmers when there is a high concentration of E.Coli present within recreational waters.
The beach I am swimming at has no signs posted indicating poor water quality, so is this beach 100 per cent safe to swim at?
For the most part, the recreational water in British Columbia does not pose a health risk. However, there is always some level of risk when swimming in untreated recreational waters; natural bodies of water are not treated to remove bacteria, are not sampled daily, and there is delay between the sampling time and the results. Other factors that can impact water quality include animal activity (e.g. geese), rainfall, hot temperatures, and frequency of use. In order to minimize risk while swimming in recreational waters, one should avoid ingestion of water. Young, elderly, or immunocompromised individuals may occasionally be at greater risk depending on bacterial levels.
What does it mean when a beach closure sign is posted?
As a preventive measure, and in order to protect the health and safety of the public, Fraser Health occasionally advises municipalities to close beaches until such time that potential health risks are at an acceptable level.
I have gone swimming and I now notice a beach closure has been posted. Am I at risk and what should I do?
Since sampling only provides a snapshot of the water quality, doing activities within recreational water before a posted beach closure does not necessarily mean you will get sick. However, if you experience signs of nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea after swimming in recreational water, we recommend that you seek medical attention.
When is it safe to swim in the water again?
If a recreational water sample indicates elevated health risk, re-sampling is conducted to reassess and monitor the level of risk associated with recreational activity. When follow-up testing shows that health risks have returned to an acceptable level, Fraser Health will advise the municipality to re-open the beach.