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Holiday water report 2018 - Beaches
HOLIDAY WATER: MONITORING RECREATIONAL WATER IN CANADA
By Michelle Moore
From the world's highest tides in the Bay of Fundy to year-round surfing in Tofino in British Columbia, Canada's beaches attract a lot of visitors each year. With temperatures getting warmer in the peak of summer, Water Today is taking a look at recreational water quality.
Recreational water quality in Canada falls under both federal and provincial jurisdiction. Health Canada's Guidelines for Canadian Recreational Water Quality provide a comprehensive guide for provinces to use in monitoring water quality for swimmers.
Health Canada has established what are acceptable levels for such things as faecal contamination and blue-green algae which are among the most common problems. Ultimately though, it is up to provincial authorities to decide how often water samples should be taken.
Every region has potential issues that may be more common for their water systems. For example, Lake Winnipeg in Manitoba has been combatting their ongoing issues with blue-green algae while Parlee Beach in New Brunswick has had to issue multiple swim advisories due to the presence of E. coli.
Because recreational water quality, like drinking water quality is managed provincially there is no one place Canadians can consult to know if the water is up to par in their area. The first step is to find out how water quality is monitored in your province.
Here are the provinces that actively monitor recreational water quality and the agencies that are responsible for each:
- British Columbia, Regional Health Authorities
- Alberta, Alberta Health Services: Active Health Advisories
- Manitoba, Department of Sustainable Development
- Sasktachewan, Healthy Beach Program
- Ontario, Regional Health Authorities
- Quebec, Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment and Fight Against Climate Change
- New Brunswick, Office of the Chief Medical Officer
- Nova Scotia, Lifeguard Service
- Prince Edward Island, Department of Tourism
While there is no federal source for amalgamated information on recreational water quality, there are non-governmental organizations that provide that information.
Swim Drink Fish Canada is a Canadian charity originally founded under the name Ontario Waterkeeper in 2001. They represent over 1.5 million people working for clean water. Last year they released their first Swim Guide for Canada, a beach information service that offers people water quality alerts, descriptions, directions, photos and more.
At www.theswimguide.org/ or by using the cell phone application, users can consult a variety of information for 7 000 beaches across Canada, the U.S., New Zealand and Baja, Mexico.
Blue Flag is an eco certification given to beaches around the world that maintain good water quality, environmental stewardship, safety and provide environmental education. The non-profit Environmental Defence is the Canadian Operator.
Of the beach operators who applied for blue flag certification, 27 beaches and 9 marinas in Canada have been awarded it. Those looking for a great place to swim can visit https://environmentaldefence.ca/blue-flag/.