Water quality for open water swimming

APEM’s biologists have extensive experience in assessing water quality by providing bespoke blue-green algae and bacteriology monitoring and analysis for a wide range of water bodies and clients, using our UKAS accredited methods.

close up of algal blue green algae

We offer a range of options from analysing single samples for the presence or absence of organisms, to designing full assessments and providing pre-event and routine monitoring for lakes with regular users such as open water swimming. We can also offer advice and design mitigation for any issues identified.

Blue-green algae and bacteriology

APEM has been providing water quality monitoring for almost 30 years and the company is at the forefront of current knowledge and methods. Our expert analysts frequently advise not only private clients but also regulators, environmental agencies, water companies and local authorities.

We have been actively involved in a number of intensive water quality management and monitoring programmes for triathlon and swim events, providing data that enables the organisers to decide whether swimming should be permitted.

Open water swimming at Salford Quays

Open water swimming at Salford Quays

These have included the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games triathlon and our ongoing monitoring at Salford Quays, the Open Water Marathon Swim at the Olympic site and numerous Iron Man UK events, as well as long-term monitoring of Liverpool Docks.

  • open water swimming Microcystis aeruginosa cyanobacteria colony, which often forms dense blooms in mid to late summer.
  • blue-green algae and bacteriology 2 Anabaena & Aphanizomenon sp. – two common bloom-forming cyanobacteria.

Nova International Great Swim Series 2011

APEM was commissioned to produce a management action plan for blue-green algae and bacteriology for this high profile event. We developed a sampling strategy for cyanobacteria and bacteriology to be implemented at each venue, detailing the number of sampling points and frequency of sampling.

Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games triathlon

Triathlon swim at Strathclyde Loch

Strathclyde Loch with the triathlon about to start

Water sports had historically been suspended at Strathclyde Loch due to blue-green algae and elevated bacteriological loads. APEM analysed historical data and identified management options to improve the water quality to the standards required by the International Triathlon Union. This included the creation of a designated swim area, separated from the main loch, along with chemical treatments to reduce the risk of an algal bloom.

NOWCA blue-green algae and bacteriology monitoring

APEM was contracted by the National Open Water Coaching Association to provide monitoring of blue-green algae and bacteriology of lakes used regularly by open water swimmers from all over the UK. The results were used to inform risk assessments to protect the health and safety of water users.

About blue-green algae

close up of algal bloom

Blue-green algae are found in fresh, brackish and marine waters throughout the world.

Many species produce toxins known as cyanotoxins. Exposure to cyanotoxins through contact with skin, drinking or accidentally swallowing and inhaling affected water can cause a wide range of symptoms in humans and animals, sometimes serious. These include rashes, skin and eye irritation, blisters, stomach cramps, vomiting, nausea, diarrhoea and liver damage.

About faecal pollution

Faecal pollution of recreational water is primarily from discharges, drains and sewers, livestock, industrial processes, farming activities, domestic animals and wildlife. Exposure to water that is polluted in this way can cause infections of the intestines, eyes, ears, nose, skin and respiratory system, amongst other health risks.

If you have any queries, please contact Richard Bassett, technical specialist.
Alternatively you can email us here. Or call 0161 442 8938.