Everything you need to know about the Swim Guide and how to use it

Cahaba Riverkeeper Buck Creek
Cahaba Riverkeepers on a recent trip down Buck Creek to collect water samples. Photo via Cahaba Riverkeeper

As you prepare for your summer fun on Alabama’s many waterways, it may be wise to check the water quality before you jump in or cast your line. Thanks to several members of Waterkeepers Alabama, the Swim Guide is the place to look to find out the safety of the water.

What is the Swim Guide?

Photo Via Cahaba Riverkeeper
A peaceful spot in Bessemer that Cahaba Riverkeeper monitors for safety. Photo via Cahaba Riverkeeper

Basically, the Swim Guide is your handy dandy resource for water quality for any body of water covered and tested by a Waterkeeper. Using a color code (green, yellow, red), the Swim Guide lets you know if the water you’re planning to enter is safe. The Guide also tells you the historical safety of the water, so you can see how often the waterway passes testing.

The safety of the water is determined after Waterkeepers, like the Cahaba Riverkeeper, collect samples and test it.

“Cahaba Riverkeeper has been doing the Swim Guide for eight years, since 2014. It began because people called us asking if it was safe to swim in this or that location. So, we started testing along the Cahaba in order to inform people of the water quality in high-use places. In our first year, we had eight sites. This year, we have 22 sites that we regularly test.”

Myra Crawford, founder, Cahaba Riverkeeper

Another good thing about the Swim Guide? Waterkeepers across North America update the website, so you can go anywhere in the US and parts of Canada and be able to check the water safety levels.

Download the Swim Guide.

What rivers are covered?

Cahaba Riverkeeper Swim Guide
One of the many waterways Waterkeepers Alabama monitors for water quality. Photo via Cahaba Riverkeeper

In Alabama, the Swim Guide covers several bodies of water, from the Tennessee River down to Mobile Bay and Orange Beach. To use it, just search the body of water you’re at or heading to, and the rating and history of the site should pull up.

Here are just a few of the rivers and beaches that are updated in the Swim Guide app:

  • Little River
  • Coosa River
  • Cahaba River
  • Lake Martin
  • Choctawhatchee River
  • Mobile Bay
  • Gulf Shores
  • Dauphin Island

“Cahaba Riverkeeper tests sites each week for about 16 weeks. Right now, we test from before Memorial Day to the weekend before Labor Day.

Many of our volunteers are student interns at local universities. We’re trying to make this a learning experience as well as a public service for the community.”

Myra Crawford, founder, Cahaba Riverkeeper

You can help out too

Photo Via Cahaba Riverkeeper
Riverkeepers out for a paddle to check on the health and safety of an Alabama waterway. Photo via Cahaba Riverkeeper

You can also help keep the Swim Guide updated and help people and wildlife stay safe along Alabama’s waterways.

One of the best ways to help is to take photos of anything sketchy you see in or around the water and send it over to your local Waterkeeper. You can also report in the Swim Guide app, but for most Alabama Waterkeepers, it’s simplest to send it directly to them. Essentially, if you see something, say something.

Another way to support the Swim Guide and those running it is to donate to your local Alabama Waterkeeper. Funding helps them continue to test our waterways and keep our community informed. Find you local waterkeeper via this interactive map from Waterkeepers Alabama.

Check out our recent story about Waterkeepers Alabama to learn more about what organizations like Cahaba Riverkeeper do to protect our waterways.

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Claire Hancock
Claire Hancock
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