Pond Advice: Swim ponds
QUESTION: How can we tell if our farm pond is safe for swimming?
ANSWER: A dip in the pond can be a welcome relief on a hot
day, but it’s good to know what you’re jumping into. Bob Broz, an extension water quality specialist at the University of Missouri, says pond water often has waterborne pathogens, but it’s generally not necessary to test for bacteria.
It is important, however, to determine where your pond water comes from and what it flows over before it gets to your pond. “If the water runs through a feedlot and gets into the pond, then the chances are very good you’ll have exceptionally high levels of bacteria, and you may want to check it,” Broz says. “But most of the time we know that you’re going to be above what we would classify as a safe limit for a public beach for swimming.”
Before jumping in, do a visual inspection of the water’s surface. If you see green or brown scum, an oily sheen, or floating dead fish, do not go in the water. Although most algae blooms aren’t harmful to humans, it’s not very pleasant to swim among them. Never drink or swallow pond water. Be sure to stay out of the water if you have an open wound that could get infected.
Also make sure everyone knows general safety rules for swimming. Have a pole to reach out to struggling swimmers or a float to throw. Put up signs to label swimming areas and mark the water depth in different spots.
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