Recreational Water & Beach Reports

Recreational Water & Beach Reports

Environmental Health Officers assess and inspect public/commercial swimming pools and hot tubs for compliance with health standards and for the health and safety of you and your family.

Environmental Health Officers also work with local governments and agencies providing oversight of beaches to monitor water quality at popular public beaches based on information outlined in the Guidelines for Canadian Recreational Water Quality.

Beach Sampling

Beach sampling for 2024 is now under way. The beach sampling program is active each year between mid-May to September.

Each summer, Environmental Health Officers assist local government in monitoring beach water quality throughout the swimming season. Beach owners and operators are responsible for beach water sampling and maintaining a safe environment for public beach use. Where results may indicate the water may be unsafe, beach advisories will be posted by local government at the beach site in consultation with Island Health.

Please note that beach sample results and beach advisories are now available through our My Health Departments page. You can also access sample reports and beach advisories at: Beach Sample Reports and the Current List of Beach Advisories. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Monitor Beaches?

Beaches are monitored to protect swimmers from illnesses that may be linked to unacceptable levels of bacteria. Swimming in contaminated water can result in increased risk of ear, nose and throat infections or gastrointestinal illnesses.

How Are Beaches Chosen For Sampling?

Environmental Health Officers select beaches where use levels may warrant regular sampling and apply a standardized risk assessment tool to determine whether sampling should be recommended and to set the recommended frequency.  

How Often Are Beaches Sampled?

Each beach is assessed by an Environmental Health Officer (EHO) based on usage, previous sample results and potential sources of contamination. Once beaches have been assessed, a recommended sampling frequency is made based on the following:

HIGH – Sampled weekly
MODERATE – Sampled every two weeks
LOW – Sampled monthly

Beach sampling season typically begins mid-May and ends Labour Day weekend.

What Do We Test For?

We test for indicator bacteria. Indicator bacteria are used to identify the presence of fecal contamination and provide an indication of the potential risk associated with swimming in that location. The indicator bacteria used depends on the type of water sampled. E. coli is used at fresh water beaches and Enterococci is used at salt water beaches.

When Are Advisories Posted on Beaches?

Beach advisories are recommended by Island Health when a sample result of over 1000 E. coli or 175 Enterococci per sample is received, as studies indicate there is an elevated risk associated with these bacterial levels. A beach advisory will also be considered when:

  • the average of the past several sample results (also called a “geometric mean”) exceeds 200 E. coli or 35 Enterococci
  •  a single sample result exceeds 400 E. coli or 70 Enterococci per sample
  •  a visible blue green algae bloom is present
  • other public health hazards are identified 

A sample result of 235 E.coli or greater indicates a potential water quality issue requiring further investigation including a re-sample. Environmental Health Officers will contact the local government or agency overseeing the beach to re-sample or post a warning sign at the beach if a beach advisory is needed. Please note, public beach are not technically “closed” to public access while an advisory is in place.

When Are Beach Advisories Lifted?

Beach advisories are lifted once there is no longer a risk to swimmers. A beach advisory may be lifted when:

  •  the average of the past several sample results (geometric mean) falls below 200 E. coli or 35 Enterococci
  • two consecutive sample results are below the single-sample maximum (400 E. coli or 70 Enterococci)
  •  the blue green algae bloom is no longer visible
  • any possible public health hazard identified has been abated
What Is Blue-Green Algae?

Cyanobacteria (also known as blue-green algae) are microscopic organisms that are naturally found in water, more commonly, in shallow, slow moving water such as ponds or fresh water lakes. Cyanobacteria is typically not visible in water but under the right conditions, may form blooms that can be seen on the surface of water appearing as a sheen or can be a thicker consistency and range in colours from green, blue, red or brown. Cyanobacteria can produce toxins (microcystins) that are poisonous to humans, pets and other animals. It is recommended to avoid drinking, swimming or any direct contact with the water during an active bloom. Beach advisories are posted where there is a visible bloom at this link. More information on cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) can be found in the resources below. 

Tips for Safe Beach Use
  • Check for beach advisories and beach sampling results page before swimming. Note: Beach results are most predictive of water quality for two days after a sample was taken.
  • Avoid swimming after heavy rainfall or where water appears murky or turbid.
  • Avoid swallowing water. 
  • Avoid swimming if you have open cuts or wounds, or if you are experiencing gastrointestinal illness.
  • Take a shower as soon as possible after being exposed to beach water.
  • Always wash your hands prior to consuming food.


Find your local Environmental Health Office

Additional Resources

Recreational Water Facilities

Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) inspect public and commercial pools, hot tubs, spray pools and wading pools (referred to collectively as ‘pools’) to assess compliance with the Pool Regulation. The regulation requires operators to maintain a safe and sanitary environment in and around the pool and throughout the surrounding facilities to protect public health and prevent injury. 

Find Recreational Water Facility Inspection Reports

Constructing a Pool?

Under the Pool Regulation, any person constructing a pool or modifying an existing pool must first apply for and receive a construction permit. To apply for a construction permit, you must submit an application to the local Environmental Health Office.
Your application package must include:
•    Application for Pool Construction Permit including a Pool Data Sheet for each pool
•    Two complete sets of construction plans and specifications 
•    Cover letter detailing project overview, health hazard design parameters with reference to all job numbers, drawings and submitting inquiries or attachments
*All drawings, data sheets, specifications must be signed, sealed and dated by an engineer or architect

Permit to Operate

In order to open a pool to the public, an operating permit must be issued by an Environmental Health Officer.  
To apply for an operating permit, submit the following to your local Environmental Health Office:
•    Application for a Recreational Water Facility
•    Pool Safety Plan (standard template) or (commercial pool template)
•    As-built Pool Data Sheet
*For newly constructed pools or modified pools, also submit a Statement of Compliance from each engineer or architect involved in the construction to confirm the pool has been constructed as authorized under the construction permit issued.

The Environmental Health Officer will conduct an initial inspection and, if satisfied that the operation of the pool will not likely constitute a health hazard, issue an operating permit.
Please keep in mind that a permit to operate is not transferable.  If you are the new owner or operator of a pool, you must apply for a new permit and must not operate the pool until a permit has been issued to you.

Additional Resources

•    BC Guidelines for Swimming Pool Design
•    BC Guidelines for Swimming Pool Operation
•    Model Aquatic Health Code 
•    Guidelines to Fecal and Body Fluid Accidents in Pools
•    Template Pool Testing and Maintenance


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