Choose clean lakes for safer swimming

Which lakes are safe for swimming?

Image of a smiling girl wearing a swimsuit with a lake in the backgroundThe summer of 2021 is off to a scorching start with record high temperatures and drought affecting most of Minnesota. As the temperatures soar, many have sought relief from the heat at their favorite swimming spots. In the land of 10,000 lakes, one question might be on the mind of swimmers: how do I know I’ve picked a safe place to swim? With a little bit of research, you can plan your next beach outing with confidence that you’re heading to a healthy lake or stream.

MPCA’s Impaired Waters Viewer

One state-wide resource is a map called the Impaired Waters Viewer, which is maintained by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. A body of water is considered “impaired” by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) if it has too much bacteria or nutrient pollution, making it unsuitable for swimming, fishing, or other recreation. At first glance, the Impaired Waters Viewer map may look a bit frightening with so many waterways colored bright red. However, you can click on each lake, river or stream to view important details about the impairment.

When browsing the Impaired Waters Viewer map, click on a lake or river and look for the codes AQC (aquatic consumption), AQL (aquatic life), and AQR (aquatic recreation). For example, Bush Lake in Bloomington is marked as impaired for aquatic consumption due to mercury found in fish tissue. This is one of many lakes where it’s best to avoid eating fish caught there, but swimming is perfectly safe. Steer clear of swimming in lakes, rivers, and streams marked AQR until they are no longer impaired.

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