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June 30, 2020

Stay Healthy While Enjoying Lakes and Creeks

Boulder County, CO - Boulder County’s beautiful lakes, rivers, and creeks are enticing places to cool off and spend the day, but they are also home to many organisms, bacteria, and other germs that can make people sick. Water contaminated with germs, such as Cryptosporidium, Giardia, Shigella, norovirus, and E. coli O157:H7, can make individuals sick when it is ingested or gets into an open cut or sore.

Almost none of the natural waterbodies in Boulder County are designated as swim beaches. While many lakes or streams allow water craft, such as kayaks and paddleboards, it is not an indication that the water is safe for swimming. At some locations, swimming may even be prohibited.

“Boulder Reservoir and Union Reservoir are the only two water bodies in the county that are regulated as swim beaches,” explained Erin Dodge, Boulder County Public Health Water Quality program coordinator. “This means that only these reservoirs are monitored for water quality to help protect swimmers.” Currently both reservoirs are closed for swimming but open for other activities. You can check the status of Boulder Reservoir and Union Reservoir online.

Boulder County Public Health recommends the following tips for safe water recreation:

  • Read all signs posted near a waterbody to understand what activities are allowed and if any warnings are currently in place.
  • Don’t have contact with the water if:
    • It has rained enough in the last 48 hours to fill gutters. This is especially important for waterbodies within cities that collect stormwater from street storm drains. The water may also include human and animal feces that can drain into the swim area.
    • The water looks cloudier than usual, is discolored, or smells bad. Discolored or smelly water could mean there is a harmful algal bloom (HAB) in the water that can make humans and animals sick.
    • There are pipes draining into or around the water.
    • You are sick, especially with diarrhea or symptoms of COVID-19.
    • You have an open cut or wound, especially from a surgery or piercing.
  • Only swim at designated swim beaches.
  • Don’t swallow the water while swimming.
  • Keep sand away from your mouth and children’s mouths; it can also contain germs.
  • Don’t poop in the water.
  • Get out of the water every hour to use the bathroom, take kids to the bathroom, or to check diapers. Make sure to change diapers away from water and sand.
  • Wash your hands for 20 seconds before eating any food, especially if you’ve been playing in or touching sand. If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol. Wipe off all sand and dirt before using hand sanitizer because it’s less effective when hands are visibly dirty or greasy.
  • Always shower after being in contact with waterbodies.

For more information, visit www.cdc.gov/healthywater/swimming/oceans-lakes-rivers/visiting-oceans-lakes-rivers.html, www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/swim-beach-monitoring, or www.cdc.gov/healthywater/swimming/swimmers/rwi.html

-BoulderCountyHealth.org-