Health Implications of Drought: Recreational Risks
People who engage in water-related recreational activities during drought may be at increased risk for waterborne disease caused by bacteria, protozoa, and other contaminants such as chemicals and heavy metals. Exposure can occur through accidentally or intentionally swallowing water, direct contact of contaminants with mucous membranes, or breathing in contaminants.
Untreated surface water can be a health threat in drought conditions. In untreated surface waters, some pathogens, such as a type of amoeba (Naegleria fowleri), are more common during drought because low water levels may create warmer water temperatures that encourage their growth.
As the levels of surface waters used for boating, swimming, and fishing drop, the likelihood of injury increases. Low water levels in lakes can put people at risk for life-threatening injuries resulting from diving into shallow waters or striking objects that may not be immediately visible while boating. Low surface water levels can also expose potentially dangerous debris from the bottom of lakes, rivers, and ponds.