Photography by A. Odrezin
The Coosa River that runs up and down our state is heavily used for recreation like fishing, swimming and boating. But with so much use and activity, including that of farms and industry, all on the same water, issues with contamination often arise, and some can lead to illnesses, from minor gastrointestinal discomfort and infections to serious conditions or even death. So how can you know when and where it is safe for you and you family to swim? Get the skinny before you dip and use the handy dandy Swim Guide put out by the Coosa Riverkeeper (CRK), a conservation organization dedicated to protecting the river and its tributaries as well as the health of those who like to enjoy it.
The Coosa Riverkeeper Swim Guide provides information about water quality conditions at popular recreation sites on the river to protect public health and improve water quality. The organization launched its swim guide program in 2015. In addition to testing for E. coli, CRK continues building a database of baseline water quality conditions that can be tracked over the long term to analyze trends, identify problem areas, focus on areas in need of restoration projects and, ultimately, track how well restoration projects improve water quality.
While some may believe the Alabama Department of Environmental Management monitors our state’s freshwater streams and lakes for fecal contamination, it doesn’t. Only coastal beaches get such monitoring done by ADEM. This is why Coosa Riverkeeper’s work is so important.
In 2017, CRK is testing 20 sites for 20 weeks. Weekly results are posted at CoosaRiver.org/SwimGuide, or you can text SWIMGUIDE to 844-83 to get water quality alerts to your phone. And you can download the Waterkeeper Swim Guide app to your iPhone or Android device to get water quality data, no matter where you are.