Healthy living

Tips for healthy swimming

Follow these helpful tips for healthy swimming in Western Australia's rivers, estuaries, lakes, dams and beaches.

Avoid swimming after heavy rainfall (more than 10 millimetres)

After heavy rainfall, pollutants collect from our streets, gardens and farms and are washed into our oceans and rivers via storm water systems.

This can increase levels of harmful bacteria in the water and make it unsafe for swimming, especially if you put your head under water or if you swallow the water.

As a precaution people should avoid swimming:

  • within 1 day after heavy rainfall in coastal waters
  • within 3 days after heavy rainfall in river, lake, dam or estuarine systems.

Do not swim in water that looks discoloured, murky, or smells unpleasant

Avoid swimming if you notice the water is murky, discoloured or smelly. This is a clear sign that the water may not be safe to swim in.

Look for posted warning signs and follow the advice on them

Health warning signs may be installed to warn the public when pollution is detected in a water body, for example after a sewage spill or algal bloom.

Do not swim in the water if a health warning sign is posted.

Avoid swallowing water or putting your head under water if you are unsure about its quality

If you swallow water that is polluted with bacteria or algae you increase your risk of getting ill. If you are unsure about a particular waterway, do not put your head under water. You may end up swallowing water and get sick.

Avoid swimming if you have an open wound or infection

Do not go swimming if you have an open wound or infection. If the water is polluted you risk further infection to your wound.

Don’t swim if you are ill

If you swim when you are ill, you put yourself and other swimmers health at risk.  Do not swim if you are ill, particularly if you have gastroenteritis symptoms such as diarrhoea or vomiting.

Use of toilet facilities

Use proper toilet facilities when you are swimming.  If you use natural waterways as a toilet, you put the health of yourself and others at risk.

Take children on bathroom breaks regularly

Young children need to be taken on regular toilet breaks so they do not use natural waters as a toilet.

Dispose of human waste hygienically when boating

It is important that you dispose properly of your toilet waste from your boat. This shouldn’t be done near areas where people swim.

Follow advice from the Department of Transport (external site) on waste disposal from boats.

Avoid swimming in warm, slow moving, stagnant water or next to stormwater drains

Warm, slow moving, stagnant water is a sign you should not go swimming. These conditions can promote the growth of algal blooms and amoebic meningitis.

More information

Water Unit
Environmental Health Directorate
Department of Health WA
PO Box 8172
PERTH BUSINESS CENTRE WA 6849

Telephone: 9388 4999
Email: ehinfo@health.wa.gov.au

Remember

  • Do not swim in water that looks discoloured, murky or smells unpleasant.
  • Look for posted warning signs and follow the advice on them.

Acknowledgements
Public Health

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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