The beach is great place to play, swim and cool off on a hot sunny day. However, swimming in these areas is not risk-free. There is always a risk when swimming in a natural water body.
Natural water bodies always have a level of contamination from various sources. The conditions and quality of the water can change quickly due to a number of environmental factors. There is always a risk of harmful contaminants and anyone can become ill from swimming in open water. Beach users are advised to follow personal safety precautions.
Beach owners/operators are responsible for monitoring the beaches throughout the swimming season to determine compliance with the
Canadian Recreational Water Quality Guidelines, 2012. The guidelines recommend beach water is monitored for the presence of E. coli using two limits; a geometric mean of ≤ 200 E. coli/100 mL based on the previous five samples and a single sample limit of ≤ 400 E. coli/100 mL. When either of these limits is exceeded an assessment will be made by the Medical Health Officer. Beach operators may be required to post a notice at the beach, “No Swimming”.
Monitoring of beach water quality has ended for the season and will resume in April 2020. Results will be available after the Victoria Day long weekend (May 18, 2020).
Beach water quality data will be available for the Polar Bear Swim at English Bay and Sunset Beach prior to the event on January 1, 2020.
The 2019 Beach Water Quality Map Pilot Project has officially come to an end. If you found the new reporting format to be helpful and/or have any recommendations for further improvement please let us know at:
Download beach water quality FAQs or read the questions below:
Avoid swallowing water
Avoid swimming with an open cut or wound
Avoid swimming for 48-hours after a significant rainfall
Avoid swimming in murky/turbid water
Stay away from the water if you are experiencing digestive or intestinal problems
After swimming, wash your hands before handling food
After swimming, rinse off well using soap and clean water, paying special attention to any cuts or scrapes. Dry out your ears.
If you believe you have been exposed to contaminated water, take a shower and wash swimsuits, towels and other clothing that might have been contaminated as soon as possible. If you start to feel sick, seek medical attention. Tell your doctor that you think you were exposed to contaminated water, and contact your local health authority to report your illness.
Beach owners/operators are responsible for collecting their own water samples but may make arrangements for others to do so. In the lower mainland, Metro Vancouver performs the sampling for the beach operators. Samples are sent to an approved laboratory for analysis. VCH reviews the results and then posts on this website.
Beach owners/operators should routinely test beach water quality during the swimming season from April to September. While most beaches are tested each week, remote beaches are not always able to meet this recommended frequency.
Beach water is tested for the presence of E. coli, a bacterium commonly found in the intestinal tract of animals and humans.
High counts of E. coli in recreational water may increase the chances of gastrointestinal illnesses and skin/eye infections.
When the single sample limit of ≤400 E. coli/100mL is exceeded, a resample protocol is initiated. The beach operator will be requested to re-sample as soon as possible. The beach will remain open to swimming until results are confirmed.
The Guidelines for Canadian Recreational Water Quality recommends the use of two limits for E. coli. A geometric mean of ≤ 200 E. coli/100 mL based on the previous five samples or a single sample limit of ≤ 400 E. coli/100 mL. When either of these limits is exceeded an assessment will be made to determine next steps. In the case of a single sample exceedance, the first step will be to re-sample. Should results remain high, beach operators may be required to post a notice at the beach, “No Swimming”, which includes all primary contact recreation activities.
The level of E. coli bacteria found in the water is above the recommended guidelines. When the level of bacteria is higher there is an increased risk of illness to swimmers. The public is advised not to swim or wade in the water until the advisory is removed. Seniors, infants and children and people with weakened immunity are the most susceptible.
There is no way to say for sure whether or not you will get sick if you go into water that is under advisory, but you will have a higher chance of getting sick. The risk of getting sick is higher if you swallow water or get water in the nose, eyes, ears or an open wound. Examples of possible illness include stomach upset, ear infection, sore throat, or wound infection.
When tests show that the beach water quality has returned to an acceptable level, the advisory will be removed. Beach operators will be notified that the beach is suitable for swimming. Signage will be removed from beaches. Results will be updated online on this webpage.
There are many possible sources of E.coli contamination. Storm water runoff can include contamination from recreational vehicles, animal waste and sewer overflows. Other possible sources are leaking septic tanks and discharge from boats. Heavy rain is often a factor contributing to poor beach water quality. Bacteria levels can be elevated after heavy rainfall and people are advised to avoid swimming at the beach for at least 48 hours.
Swimming, paddle boarding, surfing, or any activity in which the whole body can be immersed and water will likely be swallowed.
These are activities that result in regular wetting of limbs but swallowing of water is not usual. Such activities include canoeing, kayaking, sailing and fishing.
The level of E.coli contamination at which health risks occur from secondary contact recreation activities is unclear. Caution should be taken to avoid swallowing water. Afterwards wash with soap and clean water particularly prior to eating.
These are sites where the water quality is monitored, but is not suitable for swimming because of a number of possible factors including: poor water quality, tidal action, marine traffic or a hazardous underwater environment. Since the water may be used for secondary contact recreation, the data is provided to the public for information purposes only.
This is different than a water quality advisory; the following are examples of events that could lead to closure of the beach:
Chemical, oil, sewage or other waste spills
Waste water treatment plant bypasses
Red tides or blue green algae blooms
Fish or other wildlife die-off at the beach
Visible debris, metal, or sharp objects found in the water or beach area
No one should swim at a beach that has been closed.
The number of samples collected by the beach operator is not sufficient to calculate a geometric mean. The beach remains open based on the available sample results.
Beaches that are not routinely sampled are not shown on the map.
Beach water quality reports are posted below. E. coli counts for local beaches will be updated as results become available.