Public Beach Water Quality

English Bay Beach

Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) assists local governments and beach operators who are responsible for providing a safe environment at designated public beaches.

About the Beach Water Quality Monitoring Program

The Beach Water Monitoring Program is based on the information in the Guidelines for Canadian Recreational Water Quality 2023. Beach operators are responsible for regularly taking samples to test for E.coli (a fecal indicator), and monitoring beach water quality during the swimming season.

Our Medical Health Officers will assess the sample results, weather conditions, beach operator reports, and communicable disease surveillance information to determine if a swimming advisory should be issued. In most cases a swimming advisory (i.e. red flag ) will be issued when:

  • Consecutive single samples exceed 400 E.coli/100mL or the geometric mean exceeds 200 E.coli/100mL, and/or
  • An assessment of the potential health risks determines the most effective approach to protecting public health is posting an advisory

A beach with a swimming advisory means users may have a higher risk of getting sick from gastrointestinal and skin/eye infections when they engage in primary contact recreational activities, such as swimming.

Beach operators are directed to investigate water quality issues when a sample result reaches 235 E.coli/100 mL (i.e. yellow flag ). This does not mean the beach site poses a health risk to the public, but rather an investigation and resampling are required to determine if environmental factors, such as weather conditions or wildlife populations, may have influenced the sample result.

Sampling Status

Note: Monitoring beach water quality has ended for the season and will resume in April 2024. Results will be available in time for the Victoria Day long weekend (May 20, 2024).

For those who continue to recreate at the bathing beaches in the offseason, the following questions and answers will be helpful.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How can I protect myself when swimming at the beach?

    • 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
  • What should I do after swimming in beach water?

    • 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 you may have been exposed to contaminated water, and contact your local health authority to report your illness.
  • What is the source of the E. coli contamination?

    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.

  • How often is water quality tested at beaches?

    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.

  • Which beaches are tested regularly and who does the sampling and testing?

    Beach owners and operators decide which beach sites are regularly tested. They are also responsible for collecting their own water samples but may make arrangements for others to do so. For example in the lower mainland, Metro Vancouver performs the sampling for the majority of beach operators. Samples are sent to an approved laboratory for analysis. VCH reviews the results and then posts on this website.

Sample results and additional FAQs

Download our full beach water monitoring frequently asked questions (FAQs) or detailed sampling reports, organized by area. 

Current beach status map

The map below shows the status of each monitored tidal and freshwater beach in the VCH region. Click on the beach icon to see its status, the geometric mean, sampling results, and the sampling site location map.

Note: Monitoring beach water quality has ended for the season and will resume in April 2024. Results will be available in time for the Victoria Day long weekend (May 20, 2024).

Please visit Fraser Health Authority for other beaches in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley.

Reporting beach water quality concerns

Contact your local government or beach operator if you have concerns about conditions at the beach. For more information about historical beach water quality data at your local beach, please contact Metro Vancouver in the lower mainland or your local beach operator, such as your local government, municipality, regional or provincial park.