Should you swim in the ocean after rain?

Should you swim in the ocean after it’s rained?

Last Friday we got a drenching in Sydney, it bucketed down.

It had been over two months since we last had rain like it.

Whilst the rain was great for the garden, the beach took a bashing.

When I drove past in the afternoon you could see a gross black slick of pollution in the water, running the length of the beach.

For more than two months, the storm drains would’ve been filling up with all sorts of disgusting garbage; oil and washing liquids from the roads and driveways, plastic bags, fast food wrappers, dog poop, and decomposing flora and fauna, to name a few.

Then, on Friday, as the rain came down, it all made its way into the ocean.

It actually makes me sick just thinking about the blatant lack of respect for nature, let alone the resultant water quality.

On Saturday, I cancelled our Learn to ocean swim and Negotiating the surf clinics we had scheduled.

Whilst the water may have looked slightly better to the naked eye, I didn’t believe the risk lurking in the water was worth it, and so the participants’ health and wellbeing came first.

Swimming in polluted water exposes us to pathogens which can make us sick.

When swimming, these pathogens can easily enter the ears, eyes, nose, mouth and broken skin, causing a range of illnesses including gastroenteritis, flu-like illnesses, dermatitis, and ear, nose and throat infections.

Deciding when it is safe to go back in the water after rain will depend largely on whether you’re swimming at an ocean beach that can be flushed out by the swell (i.e. Bondi Beach), or in a sheltered bay/harbour etc where water tends to be more stagnant (i.e. Coogee Beach).

You can also take into account the time since it last rained, the quantity of rain, and a visual and odour analysis.

The general rule is to give it at least a day after a decent dump of rain, and then use your own intuition to decide whether it’s swimmable.

Like anything, it’s up to you whether you swim or not.

On Saturday, I had the care of my participants in my hands, so I chose not to swim.

My good friend, and eco-warrior, Ken Meese, wrote a great blog explaining how our city living contributes to this problem, including how to check the quality of the water near you.

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