Public Health offers tips for staying safe in and around water, begins beach monitoring next week

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With warm weather in the forecast for this weekend, Clark County Public Health is reminding people to take caution in and around water – especially area lakes and rivers. In spring and early summer, lakes and rivers in Southwest Washington are still cold, and water may be moving quickly. 

“Temperatures may be warming up this weekend, but lakes and rivers are still cold enough to shock and immobilize even the strongest swimmers,” said Dr. Alan Melnick, Clark County health officer and Public Health director.

Public Health urges people of all ages to follow these tips for safe swimming and recreating in all bodies of water this weekend and throughout the summer:

  • Know your limits. Drowning often occurs when swimmers tire.
  • Avoid fast-flowing waters, including rivers and ocean beaches with riptides. 
  • Don’t swim alone.
  • Avoid distractions when children are swimming or around water. Children should be supervised by adults anytime they are in or around water. Supervision requires complete attention, even if another adult is present. Drowning can happen swiftly and silently. 
  • Wear a life jacket. Children, teens and adults should wear life jackets while boating, using a personal watercraft, inner tubing or while using other water sports equipment. Life jackets should also be worn while swimming in lakes, rivers or the ocean. By law, children 12 years and younger must wear a US Coast Guard-approved life jacket or vest on all vessels 18 feet or smaller. 
  • Avoid alcohol and marijuana use when swimming or boating.
  • Don’t dive into shallow water or jump off bridges or cliffs.
  • Swim in designated swimming areas only. Signs will be viewable letting you know when and where it’s safe to swim.
  • Teach children how to swim. Enroll children in swim lessons when they are ready. Early and frequent swim lessons will teach children the skills needed to stay safe while in and around water. 

Swim beach monitoring

The early arrival of summer-like weather has also prompted Public Health to begin its summer swim beach monitoring early. Beginning Monday, May 13, Public Health will monitor the water quality at the county’s three designated swim beaches – Vancouver Lake, Klineline Pond and Battle Ground Lake – checking the waterbodies every two weeks throughout the summer for bacteria that could make swimmers sick. The summer swim beach monitoring program usually begins after Memorial Day.

Public Health will issue advisories if bacteria levels exceed state thresholds and may pose a risk to people swimming or wading in the water. Signs will be posted at swim beaches with advisories, and information about advisories will be posted on the Public Health website and social media. People can also subscribe to Public Health’s weekly newsletter, In the Splash, to receive advisory updates via email every Friday.

Public Health also monitors local waterbodies, including designated swim beaches, for harmful algal blooms that can pose a health risk to people and can be fatal to pets. Harmful algal blooms have been known to occur at several waterbodies in the county, but none have been identified in Clark County yet this year.

Members of the public can report algal blooms on the Public Health website.

For more information about swim beach advisories and other public health topics, follow Clark County Public Health on Facebook and X (formerly Twitter), and look for Public Health updates on Nextdoor.