Before you head out onto the water, don’t forget to check Swim Guide for the latest information about the health of the Watauga River. This is the public’s best resource for knowing which streams and river recreation areas are safe to swim in, and which have failed to meet safe water quality standards for bacteria pollution.
“Before jumping into the river, it’s great to see how clean the water is.’” says Watauga Riverkeeper Andy Hill, who leads river floats and cleanups throughout the year. “The Swim Guide is the best resource for those of us who love to play on the Watauga. ”
“Clear weather means clean water on the Watauga. Of the 10 sites we sampled, all 10 passed water quality standards for E. coli. The EPA limit for E. coli is 235 cfu (or colony forming units) per 100 milliliters, “ explains Andy. “As long as the weather and the water continues to be clear, it’s a great weekend to get out and play in the river.”
The Watauga Riverkeeper and MountainTrue’s water quality volunteers collect samples from 10 monitoring sites every Thursday throughout the spring, summer and fall. By Friday afternoon, those samples are analyzed for levels of E. coli and the data is posted to theswimguide.org.
“We get the results to the public as quickly as possible because we want Swim Guide to be up to date in time for a weekend of river fun,” says Andy.
E. coli bacteria makes its way into our rivers and streams from sewer leaks and stormwater runoff – especially runoff from animal agricultural operations with substandard riparian buffers. Heavy rains and storms often result in spikes in E. coli contamination, increasing the risk to human health.
In general, waterways that are located in more remote areas or protected public lands that lack a lot of agriculture, development or industrial pollution sources are the cleanest and will be less affected by stormwater runoff. Areas closer to development and polluting agricultural practices such as heavy fertilizer application without a riparian buffer are much more heavily impacted.
The Swim Guide bacteria monitoring results fluctuate throughout the season. “As it rains and the river becomes muddier, levels of bacteria pollution generally get worse,” Andy explains. “But most days when the water is clear, it’s a great opportunity to get out for a swim in the river without worry.”
MountainTrue is Western North Carolina’s premier advocate for environmental stewardship. We are committed to keeping our mountain region a beautiful place to live, work and play. Our members protect our forests, clean up our rivers, plan vibrant and livable communities, and advocate for a sound and sustainable future for all residents of WNC. MountainTrue is home to the Broad Riverkeeper, French Broad Riverkeeper, Green Riverkeeper, and Watauga Riverkeeper — the protectors and defenders of their respective watersheds. www.mountaintrue.org
About Waterkeeper Alliance:
Waterkeeper Alliance is a global movement uniting more than 300 Waterkeeper Organizations and Affiliates around the world, focusing citizen advocacy on issues that affect our waterways, from pollution to climate change. Waterkeepers patrol and protect over 2.5 million square miles of rivers, streams and coastlines in the Americas, Europe, Australia, Asia, and Africa. For more information please visit: www.waterkeeper.org