Case Study: 10 years of E. coli sampling

Columbia Riverkeeper works with people in dozens of communities—from rural to urban—who share the same goals: Protect the health of their families and the places they love. 

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Case Study: 10 years of E. coli sampling

Water quality volunteers Linda and Cliff at Trout Lake, September 2011.

People often ask our staff at Columbia Riverkeeper: "Is it safe to swim?" To answer this question, Riverkeeper provides real-time water quality data for popular swim beaches in Portland, Vancouver, and the Columbia River Gorge. Riverkeeper has been testing the Columbia for E. coli bacteria for over a decade. Our goal is to encourage families to enjoy our rivers safely. Fecal bacteria in water can cause nausea, diarrhea, and infections, especially to children and the elderly. Surprisingly, no local or state agency regularly tests popular Columbia River swim beaches. The City of Portland samples the Willamette in seven locations, while the Oregon Health Authority tests ocean beaches. There is a data gap at the heavily used Columbia River sites. Columbia Riverkeeper fills that gap, while engaging volunteer river stewards.


Data doesn't sit on a shelf

Riverkeeper posts testing results on the “Swim Guide” website and smartphone application, as well as our website and social media. Over two million people use “Swim Guide” and 199,000 people have viewed our Columbia River data. The outcome is safer swimming and recreation during the busy summer months. Fortunately, E. coli is typically within safe levels, so our data help encourage people to enjoy the water.

Download the Swim Guide app today