Study finds a large amount of polluted water in Utah recreational swimming areas

Jul 10, 2024, 4:00 PM

Trash floats on the surface of the Jordan River...

Garbage floats in the Jordan River in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, March 23, 2022. (Laura Seitz/Deseret News)

(Laura Seitz/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — A Captain Experiences study said that Utah has only assessed 69.9% of its recreational-use rivers, creeks, and streams for recreational suitability.

Captain Experiences is a fishing and hunting guide reservation company. 

Of that percentage, 58.3% of them were found to be too polluted to swim in. 

According to the report, 1,126 miles of rivers were assessed, 484 miles of Utah recreational-use waters were left unexamined. 

The report also found Utah has only assessed 21.4% of its recreational-use lakes, ponds, and reservoirs. Of that portion, 35.8% are too polluted to swim in. 

The report did not list any of the assessed bodies of water. 

Why should you avoid swimming in polluted water? 

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, swimming in polluted water can expose participants to pathogens. 

Captain Experiences said that nearly 35,000 waterborne illnesses are transmitted through polluted recreation water each year.

The EPA said that pathogens exist near areas where pollution enters the water. Additionally, high concentrations of animals can contaminate runoff that can make its way to swimming areas. 

Pollution can also enter the water through trash and animal waste left on the shores. 

Protecting yourself 

There are steps that you can take to protect yourself from polluted water. 

Before you swim, the EPA said to check your surroundings. Look for signs warning of beach closures, bacteria, or other hazards. 

If you choose to swim in an area that is not monitored regularly, choose areas that have good water circulation. Avoid areas near drainage pipes. 

When swimming, avoid swallowing water and keep open wounds out of the water. You are less likely to get sick if water does not enter your body. 

Finally, the EPA said to wash your hands after playing in the sand. Gastrointestinal issues have also been linked to sand or dirt near water. 

Related: Utah ranks fourth in nation for amount of toxic chemicals released into environment

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Study finds a large amount of polluted water in Utah recreational swimming areas