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Oceans, Lakes & Rivers

Two girls playing in the sand at the beach.In warm weather, oceans, lakes, and rivers are a source of swimming enjoyment across the country each year for about 91 million people over the age of 16 1. CDC’s Healthy Swimming web site is heavily focused on swimming in chlorinated and disinfected swimming venues. However, you will find useful information from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other groups that are focused on natural bodies of water like oceans, lakes, and rivers. Please remember that the steps for prevention of recreational water illnesses (RWIs) also apply to swimming in these
natural bodies of water.

Checking Water Quality at the Beach

Local Beach Information
Check out whether bacterial levels in the water are monitored at your local beach and whether the beach is open for swimming (information available from EPA and is only for U.S. coastal/marine and Great Lakes beaches).
Beach Watch
EPA's homepage for their beach protection activities includes beach reports, references, action plans, upcoming meetings, and frequently asked questions.
Great Lakes Beachcast
This website, enhanced with funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, broadcasts critical information about beach advisories in the Great Lakes region and related human health information. Includes maps of current beach conditions and customizable myBeachCast app.


Before You Go to the Beach (EPA brochure) [PDF - 2 pages]
Since many factors affect the water quality at the beach, it is important for you to know about the environmental conditions that affect water quality. This brochure tells you what you need to know about beach water pollution, the health risks associated with swimming in polluted water, and who to contact if you think the water at the beach is contaminated.
Naegleria fowleri — Swimming-related Risk in Freshwater
On rare occasions, Naegleria fowleri can infect people when water containing the ameba enters the body through the nose. This typically occurs when people go swimming or diving in warm freshwater places, like lakes and rivers. The Naegleria fowleri ameba then travels up the nose to the brain where it destroys the brain tissue. Personal actions to reduce the risk of Naegleria fowleri infection should focus on limiting the amount of water going up the nose and lowering the chances that Naegleria fowleri may be in the water.

Beach Management

The Beach Manager’s Manual: Harmful Algal Blooms [PDF - 8 pages]
Harmful algal blooms, commonly referred to as HABs, are an environmentally complex problem throughout the world. This document discusses HABs, their impact, and prevention strategies for beach managers and community members.

1. USDA, Forest Service. NSRE - National Survey on Recreation and the Environment. 2000.

*1978-2010; Ordered from highest to lowest frequency (i.e., #1 is the most-commonly reported etiology). Only confirmed etiologies in source databases have been included the analyses. For outbreaks with multiple etiologies, each etiologic agent counted towards the total.
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