As swimmable water season comes to a close here in Alberta, North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper and Swim Guide are taking a look back at some of the best and worst beaches from the summer of 2015.
The top 5 beaches of 2015 were:
- Camp Chestermere Beach Area
- Little Bow Provincial Park
- Little Bow Resort
- Pine Coulee
- Southern Alberta Bible Camp
All five of these beaches remained safe for swimming throughout the entire 2015 sampling season, with zero days of unsafe swimming.
On the other end of the spectrum, 2015’s worst beaches were:
- Thunder Lake Provincial Park (Unsafe 69 days, Safe 0 days)
- Eagle Lake Beach Area (Unsafe 68 days, Safe 1 day)
- Severn Lake Campground Area (Unsafe 67 days, Safe 2 days)
- Twin Valley Boat Launch (Unsafe 67 days, Safe 2 days)
While these four beaches suffered the highest closure rates, they were far from the only ones to experience extended closures during the 2015 season. Without question, the most common cause for beach closures in Alberta this summer was contamination from blue-green algae blooms.
Blue-green algae is a cyanobacteria present in all Alberta lakes. It grows best in still or slow-moving water when the weather is warm, which is part of why we saw so many blooms during the hot and dry summer of 2015. Add nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen to the mix, and the bacteria will reproduce even more rapidly.
You can help to reduce beach closures due to blue-green algae contamination. Here are a few simple actions you can take to limit the flow of nutrients into Alberta’s streams, ponds and lakes:
- Don’t use more lawn fertilizers than the recommended amount, and keep fertilizers out of storm drains and off driveways and sidewalks.
- Maintain or plant native plants around shorelines and streams. Native plants don’t require fertilizers and they help filter water.
- Properly care for and maintain your septic system.
- Do not allow livestock to drink or defecate in streams or lakes. Don’t overfeed waterfowl.
- Avoid clearing riparian vegetation to help prevent soil erosion.
Keeping informed about the water quality at our favourite beaches is an important step toward protecting public health and preventing the spread of waterborne illnesses. Make sure that you’re ready for 2016’s swimmable water season. Download Swim Guide today!
Cyanobacteria / Blue-Green Algae – Facts & Information. (2015). Vermont Department of Health. Retrieved from: http://www.healthvermont.gov/enviro/bg_algae/bgalgae_fact.aspx#do
Swim Guide. (2015). http://www.theswimguide.org/