Beaches and Pools

Recreational Water Illnesses

Water is a great way to feel refreshed whether you are swimming in a pool, playing on a splash pad or relaxing at the spa. But water is also an excellent place for germs to live. Recreational water can become contaminated if it is not maintained properly, and can allow for the spread of illness. Public health inspectors conduct inspections of recreational water facilities including public pools, spas/hot tubs, splash pads, water slide receiving basins and wading pools.

Inspection results of all public recreational water is available online at Check it! We inspect it.


Check the beach conditions on the local Grand River Conservation Authority website for beaches in Waterloo Region: Shade's Mills and Laurel Creek.

For advisories about beaches at provincial parks in Ontario, please visit Ontario Parks.

If you are heading to the beach, keep the following in mind:

  • Never swallow beach water, at any time, no matter how clear the water
  • Rainfall has a significant impact on water quality. Run off from rain washes bacteria from the shore, fields, and streets into streams, rivers and lakes
  • Wind can cause waves, which can stir up the sand and silt and  can increase the levels of bacteria in the water
  • If the water is cloudy (when you can't see your feet in waist deep water) it means the sand and silt has been stirred up and that can increase levels of bacteria in the water
  • Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer after playing in the sand or water, especially before eating
  • The presence of seagulls, geese, ducks and their droppings can have a significant impact on water quality
  • Dead fish, algae/scum or debris in the water can increase the risk of illness or injury
  • Avoid swimming if you have an infection or open wound
  • Do not put your head underwater if you are susceptible to eye, ear, nose or throat infections

A beach closure (rarely issued) prohibits swimming due to a chemical or sewage spill, or the presence of blue-green algae blooms.

Blue-green algae are microscopic, plant-like organisms that occur naturally in ponds, rivers, lakes and streams. Blue-green algae blooms typically form in late summer and early fall, in areas where the water is shallow, slow moving and warm, but they may be present in deeper, cooler water too.

Dense blue-green algae blooms may make the water look bluish-green, or like green pea soup or turquoise paint. Very dense blooms may form solid-looking clumps. Fresh blooms often smell like newly mown grass, while older blooms may smell like rotting garbage. Not all blooms are considered harmful, but you cannot tell by looking at it. Some blue-green algae produce toxins that can pose a health risk to people and animals.

You can be exposed to blue-green algae by:

  • Direct skin contact with contaminated water during activities like swimming, boating or water skiing
  • Drinking water or accidentally swallowing contaminated water
  • Eating fish caught in water where blue-green algae occurs
  • Inhaling mist in the air containing blue-green algae cells or toxins (e.g., waterskiing, showering)

Symptoms include:

  • Itchy, irritated eyes and skin
  • Headaches, fever, diarrhea, stomach pain, nausea and vomiting
  • More serious effects such as liver damage may occur when large amounts are ingested
  • Infants and young children (under age 6) are most at risk of developing serious health effects from exposure to blue-green algae.

If you suspect there could be blue-green algae in a body of water you should take the following measures. Assume there are toxins present and avoid using the water. 

  • Don’t drink the water
  • Don’t swim or bathe in the water
  • Keep animals out of the water
  • Don’t touch or handle the algae

If swimming near, or in the harmful blue-green algal bloom, immediately take a shower.

Consult a healthcare provider if symptoms develop.

Report the suspected algae to Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks Spills Action Centre at 1-800-268-6060.

For information about the health risks, contact Public Health.

Pools and Spas

Public health inspectors regularly inspect public pools, spas (hot tubs and whirlpools), splash pads, water slide receiving basins and wading pools to ensure compliance with the regulations and water quality requirements. Recreational water must be continuously disinfected and maintained.

Making a complaint

Call 519-575-4400 to make a complaint or report online.

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