ashland.news
June 13, 2024

KS Wild Side: Know before you go — swimming, that is

KS Wild water quality
Image of a water sample from Evans Creek at Palmerton Park in Rogue River. Oregon Department of Transportation photo
August 9, 2023

Are the nearby rivers, creeks and lakes clean enough to take a dip? Rogue Riverkeeper’s Swim Guide has the answer

By Haleigh Martin

Rogue Riverkeeper’s summer water quality technician takes a water sample. Caitlin Eastman photo

Swimming is a Southern Oregon staple during summertime. Whether it be the famous Rogue River, the lesser-known tributaries tucked in the mountains or the many lakes and reservoirs across the region, many people spend their weekends seeking out cool water oases to soak away the hot summer days.

You could probably guess it by our name, but here at Rogue Riverkeeper, we love all things Rogue-related. We stay tuned into local policy changes, news about the region’s water and community events taking place across the basin.

As a program of the nonprofit KS Wild, we use grants and donations from our community members to fund our work. Rogue Riverkeeper gives back to the community by sampling many recreation sites and shares that information on our Swim Guide with swimmers and other recreationists so we have data to help us make choices about where to swim.

The information posted on the Swim Guide provides free access to water quality information about the swimming sites we enjoy visiting.

As part of Rogue Riverkeeper’s water quality monitoring program, we hire a seasonal technician to work with volunteers and partner organizations to follow a scientific process that includes collecting water samples at roughly 20 different sites across the Rogue basin, delivering the samples to our lab, testing the samples and reporting the data to the Swim Guide website.

Microscopic image of E. coli bacteria, which can cause illnesses in humans and pets. Rogue Riverkeeper tests local water recreation sites for E. coli each summer. Gerd Altman image from Pixabay

In the Rogue Riverkeeper water quality monitoring program, we test only for E. coli bacteria levels. E. coli is a type of bacteria that is found in the intestines of warm-blooded animals and is used to indicate fecal contamination, which is associated with the presence of pathogens that can cause illnesses in both humans and pets.

We compare the E. coli levels in our samples with the Oregon recreational water quality standard to see if local waterways meet the standard for water contact. If a site passes and is safe for contact, it receives a green swim symbol. If it fails and is not safe for contact, it receives a red swim symbol.

Most of our sites are tested biweeky from June to September every year. Our testing information is published to the Swim Guide when we have results.

In Oregon, there is no requirement for any organization or agency to test surface water for water contact safety. That is why we voluntarily offer the Swim Guide for people to better inform their decisions on where to recreate.

Swim Guide visits recreation sites and notes whether they have tested safe for contact (green status) or tested for unsafe levels of E. coli (red status). Swim Guide image

It is important to remember that swimming in any open body of water is always a risk, and water quality can change quickly throughout the summer.

Utilizing tools like the Swim Guide can provide you with information to feel confident in your summertime recreation activities.

KS Wild Side appears every month and features a staff member from KS Wild, a regional conservation organization based in Ashland. Rogue Riverkeeper is a program of KS Wild. Haleigh Martin works as the communications manager for KS Wild. For more information go to kswild.org.

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