Recreational waters might contain fecal matter after recent storms

Aug 4, 2021, 6:17 PM
fecal matter...
This May, 2017 file photo shows the southern end of Flaming Gorge Reservoir in northeastern Utah. (Dave Cawley, KSL Newsradio)
(Dave Cawley, KSL Newsradio)

SALT LAKE CITY — There might be fecal matter and other potentially harmful elements in recreational bodies of water around Utah, according to water experts. Heavy rain and flooding often carry anything on the ground into nearby waters, including poop from humans and animals. 

It is something we might not think of before jumping into our favorite river, lake, or reservoir. Monsoonal rains and flash flooding, like those we have seen across the state over the last few weeks, can wash things we do not particularly want into those bodies of water.

“The places we love to recreate in, those aren’t being treated for chemicals, bacteria, fecal waste, any of the materials that might be getting in there,” said Dr. Kate Fickas, Utah Division of Water Quality, recreational water quality health program coordinator. 

Fecal matter winding up in recreational waterways happens all the time, not only after big storms. While the DWQ monitors some areas for E. coli and other harmful bacteria, they cannot keep an eye on all of the areas recently impacted by flooding. 

Should I go in the water? 

Families should definitely wait to swim in lakes, reservoirs, and rivers for up to 72 hours after a big storm, said Dr. Fickas. However, there are some simple precautions to take once that period has passed. 

“Always, you should avoid swallowing water in surface waters while swimming. That’s a good rule of thumb. The water isn’t treated, so you don’t necessarily know what’s in the water,” advises Dr. Fickas. 

She also recommends using the bathroom before swimming and washing your hands after you get out of the water. 

If you do go swimming and start experiencing symptoms, Dr. Fickas urges you to contact your local health department and poison control. This enables officials to track the source of the illness and inform others who might be recreating in those waters. 

Today’s Top Stories


President John F. Kennedy signs the Mental Retardation Facilities and Community Mental Health Cente...
Curt Gresseth

Is forcing the homeless into treatment the answer?

NYC Mayor Eric Adams has announced a program that involuntarily treats homeless people in "psychiatric crisis." A BYU psychologist weighs the New York approach against the ethics of patient autonomy.
1 day ago
Super agers have been identified by researchers as men and women over age 80 that have the cognitiv...
Curt Gresseth

SuperAgers — who are they, are you one, and can you become one?

SuperAgers are men and women older than 80 with the mental faculties of people decades younger.
2 days ago
Gov. Cox mental health...
Mark Jackson

Utah’s Coordinated Action Plan for Water released this week

Utah’s Coordinated Action Plan for Water was released Wednesday by Gov. Spencer Cox and state agencies.
2 days ago
The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food announced Wednesday two new cases of avian influenza....
Mark Jones

Two new cases of avian influenza announced Wednesday

Two new cases of avian influenza have been confirmed by the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food. The new cases are in Iron and Utah counties.
3 days ago
Utah Naloxone...
Devin Oldroyd

Utah Naloxone and law enforcement reach milestone in preventing overdose deaths

Utah Naloxone reports over 600 lives in Utah have been saved thanks to law enforcement's use of naloxone (Narcan®).
5 days ago
Primary Children's Medical Center has canceled some scheduled surgeries and other procedures this w...
Simone Seikaly

Citing rising RSV cases, Primary Children’s delaying some surgeries

Primary Children's is delaying pre-scheduled and non-emergency procedures that would require an inpatient stay.
5 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...

5 game day snacks for the whole family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
Recreational waters might contain fecal matter after recent storms