FAQ's - Water Conditions & Quality
Normal FAQ's for Water Quality
August and September are the ideal times to swim in the Ohio River. The water level is low, so the current is slow and the water quality is high. We anticipate the water temperature to be in the upper 70's with a 0.25 mph current. Unless there are strong winds, the water surface will be calm.
Over the past 20 years, the water quality of the Ohio River and all inland rivers has improved dramatically. Numerous swimming competitions are held in the Ohio River each year including the Louisville Ironman Triathlon, The Cardinal Harbour Triathlon, and the Cincinnati Triathlon. Prior to the race, the water is tested for contaminates to ensure the river is safe to swim in.
The two general accepted measures for determining the water quality for swimming by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and local health authorities are fecal coliform and escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria. Fecal coliform should be below 400/100 mL and E. Coli should be below 240/100 mL. On August 25, 2015, fecal coliform was 4/100 mL and E. Coli was 4/100 mL, well below any potential health concerns.
Extremely heavy rains have the greatest negative impact on water quality. If it rains hard enough that local treatment facilities cannot handle the additional volume for storm runoff, water quality will decline. Fortunately, August is one of the driest months of the year so it is unlikely that it will rain enough to significantly decrease water quality. In addition, the site of the swim is upriver (mile marker 588) from all of Louisville’s wastewater plants, thus decreasing the impact of a heavy rain.
For a complete discussion on Ohio River water quality, please go to the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORANSCO) website: http://www.orsanco.org/bacteria.
We take water quality and these warnings seriously. The organizers of the race and their families will be in the water numerous hours before the race setting up buoys and enjoying laps around the course. Like you, we will not do this if there are unsafe conditions.