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Swim Beaches

Natural Swimming Areas


 
 Stagecoach Swim Beach
What is a natural swimming area?
 
Natural swimming areas are defined in Regulation 5 CCR 1003-5 as “a designated portion of a natural or impounded body of water in which the designated portion is devoted to swimming, recreative bathing, or wading and for which an individual is charged a fee for the use of such area for such purposes.”
 
Fillable/Electronic Reporting Form
 
The overall goal of Colorado’s water quality criteria at natural swimming areas is to provide public health protection from gastroenteritis (gastrointestinal [GI] illness) associated with exposure to fecal contamination during water-contact recreation. Because fecal matter can be a major source of pathogens in natural waters, and because it is not practical or feasible to monitor for the full spectrum of all pathogens that may occur in water, Colorado’s regulation is specified in terms of fecal indicator organism (E. coli) densities because E.coli is a consistent indicator of illness. Areas that meet the definition of a natural swimming area are required to sample the water quality at the beach on a routine basis. If lab results indicate levels of E. coli bacteria higher than the standard, then the beach is required to close until E. coli levels decrease. 
   
Causes of Recreational Water Pollution
 
Elevated levels of bacteria, which may indicate the presence of potential pathogens from human or animal waste, typically originate from several sources including:
  • Runoff from urban, suburban, or rural areas
  • Malfunctioning septic systems
  • Waste from other swimmers, pets, and birds
  • Improperly disposed dirty diapers

Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife

Find a Colorado
Swim Beach!

Health Risks from Recreational Water Pollution 
Disease-causing organisms, known as pathogens, may be present in the water at a natural swimming area. Gastroenteritis (gastrointestinal [GI] illness) is the most common illness associated with swimming in water polluted by waste. GI illness occurs in a variety of forms and may have one or more of the following symptoms: nausea, vomiting, stomach ache, diarrhea, headache and fever. 
 
Children, the elderly, and individuals with weakened immune systems have a greater chance of getting sick when they come into contact with contaminated water. Children are especially vulnerable to illness because they tend to submerge their heads and are more likely to swallow water when swimming. If you experience any of the above listed symptoms, you should contact your physician.
   

Swimmers can lessen their chances of getting sick by:

  • Staying out of the water when they have an open wound
  • Staying out of the water if they are sick or have an infection
  • Swimming without putting their head under water

Beachgoers can protect eachother by:

  • Avoiding swimming if they are sick or have diarrhea
  • Taking kids on frequent bathroom breaks
  • Checking infants for soiled diapers often
  • Keeping pets out of the water (except designated areas)

PROPER HAND WASHING before eating, after playing in the water is recommended.

 Child at Swim Beach
 
If you have questions or concerns regarding Colorado's Swim Beaches please contact the Clean Water Compliance and Enforcement Unit at cdphe_wqcd_cwce@state.co.us