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Water Safety

Beach-Goers Should

  • Never swim alone, regardless of how experienced a swimmer.
  • Avoid swimming at beaches where there are large populations of ducks or geese. The waste produced by these birds causes high bacteria levels in the water.
  • Look for movement in the water; it helps keep the water clean. Do not swim in stagnant or still water.
  • Look for a sandy - not muddy - beach that has a grassy or wooded area around it. Such areas reduce surface runoff into the swimming water.
  • Do not swim at any beach right after a heavy rain. Runoff following a heavy rain may result in a high bacteria count.
  • When diving at a beach, exercise extreme caution. Beach water is not as clear as water in a pool, so underwater obstructions may not be visible. If there is any doubt, do not dive.

Pool Attendees Should

  • Look for obvious signs of cleanliness, including whether the water is clear and if you can see the bottom of the pool. Although it is impossible to tell if water is free of bacteria, the water should appear crystal clear, be continuously circulated and be maintained at a level that allows free overflow into the gutter or skimmer. There should be no strong odor of ammonia or chlorine.
  • Make sure drains are clear of debris and that drain covers are in place and secure.
  • Determine that a lifeguard is present, especially if children are present. If no lifeguard is on duty, do not let children swim unless a responsible adult who knows lifesaving techniques and first aid accompanies them.

Dehydration & Skin Protection

Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) officials also warn against dehydration and not using sunscreen. Dehydration can occur from not drinking enough fluids; it's important to drink plenty of fluids, especially when out in the sun. People should protect their skin against the damaging rays of the sun. Use sunscreen and make sure children are also covered.

Water Quality & Safety Standards

In order to minimize the risks associated with swimming, IDPH requires the state's 3,500 swimming pools and spas meet water quality and safety standards. IDPH enforces these rules and regulations through plan approvals and inspections.

Illnesses Associated with Swimming

To prevent illnesses associated with swimming at Illinois beaches, each licensed beach is inspected annually to determine that required safety features are in place and there are no sources of possible pollution such as sewage discharges. IDPH also requires that each of the 335 licensed public beaches (excluding Chicago beaches, which are regulated by the Chicago Park District) be sampled every two weeks to determine that bacterial levels in the water are within established limits.

West Nile Virus

Additional information about West Nile Virus can be found on the Department's West Nile Virus in Illinois web site or people can call the West Nile Virus Hotline at 866-369-9710 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.