Focus On Talbot: A Tool to Check for Healthy Waters by Dan Watson


First, never go in the water with a cut or open wound; stay out of the water a day or so after significant rain events; and do shower after swimming. But beyond those rules of thumb, would you like to know how to check water quality before sending the kids swimming in a river near you? Simple as pie, thanks to ShoreRivers.

As reviewed (kvetched?) in last week’s column, swimming in our local rivers today is less common than it was in the past, or ought to be (will be!) in the future. It’s not just that nutrients and sediment yield turbid water—not dangerous in itself, but unappealing. And it’s not the sea nettles either (usually). Sometimes, depending on events, portions of our local rivers have bacterial contamination that makes it inadvisable—unsafe—to take that plunge.

ShoreRivers, applying a program originating with riverkeepers in Ontario Canada, does a weekly survey of ten sites along the Choptank, Miles, and Wye Rivers from Memorial Day through Labor Day to determine whether or not those spots are safe for your kids to swim. Water samples are taken on Thursday mornings and analyzed at the ShoreRivers offices (thanks to contributions last year that funded purchase of the equipment). And anyone can access the results the next day via a free app. THIS is a public service folks should know about.

Here’s the “simple as pie” way to make it happen: Google or search App Store for “Swim Guide” (not “Swim Guide in Stories”) and click on “Download the App.” Allow access to your location and up pops a list of all the nearby sites that have been tested—safe sites in green, unsafe in red. Click on the name of a site for more information, including the date and time of testing.

(Alternatively, you can have ShoreRivers email you the whole list of results weekly by calling 443-385-0511, or consult your riverkeeper’s Facebook or instagram accounts.)

For those interested, ShoreRivers explains that its ratings use the standardized EPA safety threshold of 104 enterococcus per 100 milliliters of water.

Communities or individuals can arrange to have bacteriological testing done on a regular basis at additional sites of interest if they can deliver samples to Easton weekly. The cost is $525 for the entire season.

Note that the Swim Guide application actually has a good deal more information than the health of our local swimming spots. For example, you can use it to find nearby beaches wherever you travel, including maps. (In fact, ShoreRivers itself samples many sites on the Chester, Corsica and Sasafrass.) And it is also a means to submit reports to riverkeepers if you find anything amiss.

So get the kids outside, enjoy the waters when you can…. but first check that it’s safe to do so! And lets get to work improving our local rivers and the Bay so in the future such a question will seem just so 20th century.


Dan Watson is the former chair of Bipartisan Coalition For New Council Leadership and has lived in Talbot County for the last twenty-five years. 


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