In 2014 APEM celebrated after the winner of the Commonwealth Games triathlon in Glasgow praised the water in Strathclyde Loch, which was used for the swimming leg of the race.

Leading up to the games APEM was heavily involved in a two year project that ensured the loch was safe for competitors, following issues with water quality in previous years.

Strathclyde Lock, site of triathlon swimming at Glasgow Commonwealth Games

Background to the triathlon swim

With a high profile international sporting event to plan, North Lanarkshire Council needed to ensure that Strathclyde Loch would be safe for the triathlon’s gruelling 1.5 km open water swim.

But several rowing and open water swimming events had been cancelled in the past due to concerns over water quality. Of particular concern were previous blooms of blue-green algae, which can cause a range of very unpleasant symptoms.

What we did

To ensure that the water met the standards required by the International Triathlon Union, scientists from a group of companies including APEM recommended the installation of temporary barriers. These would isolate the part of the loch used for the triathlon from the rest of the water and allow it to be managed as a ‘loch within a loch’.

Water management barriers in Strathclyde Loch

Impermeable barriers separating the triathlon swim area from the rest of Strathclyde Loch.

Within the swim area microbiological levels dropped to those more akin to bathing waters. Chemical treatments were then used to reduce the water borne nutrients, such as phosphorous, that can lead to algal blooms.

Careful monitoring of the loch by APEM and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency revealed a steady improvement in water quality, meaning the triathletes could swim in confidence.

After claiming the gold medal, Alastair Brownlee told reporters: “I thought it was a wonderful course… I was thinking while I was swimming: this is really nice water. Dead clean.”

Prior to the event the BBC reported:

“The water conditions have been monitored very carefully here in the loch. They have had problems in the past.

“In 2012 a western district open water swimming championships were held here and more than 50 of the competitors picked up some sort of vomiting virus and since then there has been a problem with algae growth.

“So the organisers have been really keen to get it right and make sure the water poses no health or algae problems for the swimmers. I heard an interview with one or two of the New Zealanders who were saying how clear it was, how they could dive in, look down through their goggles and see the bottom of the lake.

“It’s clear, it’s clean, it’s cool and it’s calm today.”

Triathlon swim at Strathclyde Loch

Strathclyde Loch with the triathlon about to start

Water quality management

APEM has also worked on water quality management and monitoring programs for many high profile open water swimming events, including the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games triathlon held at Salford Quays.

Most recently we provided water quality sampling, analysis and expert advice to the following events:

  • Great Swim Series
  • David Walliams Sport Relief River Thames Swim
  • Open Water Marathon Swim at the Olympic site
  • Tatton Mere swim event
  • Iron Man UK event at Pennington Flash
  • And for media production immersion events throughout the North West.

We also provide analysis and advice to the Great Swim series on a yearly basis to support their UK-wide events.

The Results

  • Regular testing showed a steady improvement in water quality
  • Microbiological levels dropped
  • Blooms of blue-green algae were controlled
  • Water quality met the standards required by the International Triathlon Union
  • The open water swimming area was managed as a ‘loch within a loch’
  • Competitors praised the clean water