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Many Swimming Holes Full of Clean Water This Summer, Even in Drought

Rogue Riverkeeper Water Quality Testing Throughout Summer Shows Largely Positive Results

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Rogue Riverkeeper Water Quality Testing Throughout Summer Shows Largely Positive Results

With temperatures in the high 80’s this weekend it may be time to get a last dip in at your favorite swimming hole before settling in for our colder rainier months. Throughout the summer Rogue Riverkeeper has been sampling water quality at swimming holes around the region weekly and publishing the results to their website and a smartphone app called the Waterkeeper Swim Guide. Swim Guide rapidly distributes water quality information that affect the public and helps locals and visitors alike find clean water for recreation.

With the severe drought this year leading to a reduction in stream flows, the possibility for higher concentrations of bacteria pollution was thought to have increased. As the summer wraps up, the results show some positive signs.

Results overall showed slightly higher levels of fecal bacteria in our water at the sites sampled compared to last year. Rogue Riverkeeper’s sites on the Illinois River, Lost Creek Lake, Emigrant Lake and the Applegate River have so far had very low levels of bacteria, testing as safe to swim in every week.

Sites sampled by the City of Ashland on Ashland Creek as it flows through Lithia Park, as well as the Rogue River at Gold Hill and Grants Pass tested for high levels of bacteria a few times each, but have tested safe 70-80% of weekly samples.

“We’re relived to see that the popular locations primarily on the Rogue, Applegate and Illinois Rivers and local reservoirs where we collect samples have largely remained safe for use even in a serious drought year,” said Forrest English with Rogue Riverkeeper. “However we continue to have lots of work to do for swimmable water and are crossing our fingers for a big snow year this winter.”

Lost Creek Lake is a wild card. Rogue Riverkeeper tests showed very low levels of bacteria, but the issue at Lost Creek is a persistent and growing toxic algae problem. The Army Corps of Engineers who manages the reservoir has changed methods for assessing toxic algae from previous years. The reservoir managers have switched to a sign informing people of the potential risk and how to identify the algae, but no longer do public announcements about water safety.

In addition to local water safety information, the Waterkeeper Swim Guide utilizes standardized methods from government authorities and non-profits to determine water quality at over 2,500 sites in the United States, Canada and Mexico. The information is updated as frequently as the water quality information is gathered by partner organizations.

The most recent water quality information for southern Oregon is available online at rogueriverkeeper.org and through the Waterkeeper Swim Guide app for iPhone and Android smartphones.

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