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Water Quality Monitoring Program

Every week, the Tampa Bay Waterkeeper and a team of volunteers collects and tests water from the region’s most popular spots as part of our Water Quality Monitoring Program. Information about water quality is updated here every Friday. Check in before your next swimming, fishing or boating trip!

Green: Passed. Most recent test results met water quality standards for enterococci.
Red: Failed. Most recent test results indicate enterococci levels above standardized criteria.
Grey: No current data. Water quality information is not current (greater than seven days), unavailable, or unreliable.

Please note that heavy rains may impact water quality between testing periods. Please use caution immediately after rainstorms as sewage overflows, septic leaks and stormwater runoff can contribute high levels of bacteria to waterways. These tests do not indicate the presence of Vibrio, a flesh-eating bacteria that naturally occurs in water. Please be advised that other threats may exist and avoid entering the water with open wounds. Swim at your own risk.

About the Swim Guide

Water at all sites is sampled for enterococcus, a coliform bacteria that indicates fecal pollution. Water is tested every Wednesday and the results are posted every Friday.

Tampa Bay Waterkeeper utilizes the standardized state and federal criteria to protect public health in recreational waters. A water quality monitoring site is marked Green when it has a Good or Moderate standing meaning the test results show enterococci counts between 0- 70 cfu (colony forming units) / 100ml. A site is marked Red when it has a Poor standing, meaning the test results show enterococci counts that exceed the beach action value (BAV) of 70 cfu/100ml. These conservative advisories better inform vulnerable people (children, elderly, and the immunocompromised) who have elevated health risks due to water quality. A site is marked Grey when no current or reliable monitoring information is available.

All water quality results are posted online and are publicly available. Weekly water quality reports are also distributed via email on Fridays as soon as the data has been analyzed (sign up here to receive water quality notifications). Any additional questions about Tampa Bay Waterkeeper’s Water Quality Monitoring Program or our results can be addressed to Andrew Hayslip,

Tampa Bay Waterkeeper’s water samples are analyzed at Benchmark EnviroAnalytics, Inc., a NELAP accredited lab. In addition, Tampa Bay Waterkeeper maintains Swim Guide sites using Florida Department of Health’s (DOH) enterococcus testing data. Tampa Bay Waterkeeper will also mark beaches red if information comes from other sources indicating that the water is unsafe, for example if a county or a municipality closes a beach because of a local sewage leak.

The Florida Department of Health (DOH) adopted new water quality criteria January 2016 for the Healthy Beaches program. They reflect the most current recommendations and water quality grant requirements in the 2012 Recreational Water Quality Criteria from the US Environmental Protection Agency. DOH monitoring results are collected weekly on Mondays and results are posted to the Florida Healthy Beaches website on Wednesday. The Florida Healthy Beaches Program Categories are: Good = 0-35 Enterococci / 100 mL of marine water; Moderate = 36-70 Enterococci / 100 mL of marine water, and; Poor = 71 or greater Enterococci / 100 mL of marine water. The 2012 Recreational Water Quality Criteria recommends using 70 CFU per 100 mL as the Beach Action Value (BAV) to guide public health advisories. A Single Sample Maximum (SSM) at 70 CFU per 100 ml and a BAV are functionally the same. If the sample result is above the indicated value, the beach is resampled and tested the following day or a beach advisory is issued with the first test result. The Healthy Beaches program no longer uses geometric means to represent recreational water quality data.

Please note: Vibrio vulnificus bacteria, also called flesh-eating disease, is a naturally occurring bacteria in some of Florida’s waters. This bacteria can be lethal, especially when contracted by individuals with compromised immune systems. Concentrations of the bacteria are higher in the mouths of rivers near oceans. The bacteria is most dangerous when ingested in raw seafood but recent deaths are attributed to individuals who have waded in water with broken skin. Beachgoers are urged to use caution and consult a physician if you suspect you have come in contact with the bacteria. As always, swim at your own risk.

Additionally, we are currently experiencing an unprecedented red tide event that will continue to affect your ability to recreate safely in the watershed. Check with your local Department of Health or with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for the latest information about red tide.

More information about the Water Quality Monitoring Program coming soon!