Jun 04, 2020

Watauga Riverkeeper Highlights Swim Guide App for Water Bacteria Monitoring

Watauga's Riverkeeper, Andy Hill, is urging people to use Swim Guide for water bacteria monitoring

water quality

Watauga Riverkeeper, Andy Hill, and MountainTrue are urging people to use Swim Guide, an app and website that notifies users when water is safe for swimming and when the water quality is poor.

Although the river usually has low levels of bacteria, there are rare occasions of high E. coli levels that almost always correlate with storm water runoff, according to Hill.

“Watauga River has outstanding high quality water and everyone should swim in it all the time. It’s just that they should take precautionary actions if they’re concerned about bacteria,” Hill said.

MountainTrue water quality volunteers and Hill collect weekly samples from 10 monitoring sites during spring, summer and fall, according to the Watauga Democrat. Once the samples are collected, certified lab results are uploaded to theswimguide.org.

“We upload the results every Friday, so people can get a better picture of where they want to recreate,” Hill said. “Plus, the app geo-locates the closest local waterways and you can take the app with you when you travel.”

On May 28, Swim Guide listed Watauga River 321 Access at Gorge Park as having failed the water quality standard for swimming, but wading or fishing in the water is still safe, Hill said.

Hill also advises wading with caution during high flows, and those who are immunocompromised or have open cuts should avoid it altogether.

The best way for farmers to ensure that surface application of fertilizer or manure spreading does not impact water quality is to maintain a healthy riparian buffer, recommends Hill.

Hill also serves as MountainTrue’s High Country regional director.

MountainTrue regularly tests publicly accessible waterways and has four regional offices throughout Western North Carolina.

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