Watauga River testing

Results after testing the waterways are uploaded to Swim Guide every Friday.

BOONE — Each Friday afternoon throughout the spring, summer and fall, the Watauga Riverkeeper releases new, up-to-date bacteria monitoring results for 11 monitoring sites at public access points within the Watauga River Basin.

Results are posted to the Swim Guide website at theswimguide.org — the public’s best resource for knowing which streams and river recreation areas are safe to swim in, and which have failed to meet safe water quality standards for bacteria pollution.

The Swim Guide lists each testing site as either passing or failing according to the EPA limit for E. coli in recreational waters of 235 cfu (or colony forming units) per 100 milliliters.

This Week’s Results:

Of the 17 Swim Guide sites tested, five sites did not meet the EPA standard for E.coli. Those sites are as follows:

  • Calloway Road Bridge
  • Guy Ford Road Bridge
  • Watauga River Gorge Access
  • South Fork New River at Boone Greenway
  • Todd Island Park

“We had drier conditions this week which have resulted in better results across the watershed including all Watauga Lake and Tennessee tailwater sites passing,” explains Watauga Riverkeeper Andy Hill.

Samples are collected on Thursdays, processed using the Idexx system, incubated for 24 hours, and results are analyzed and posted on Friday afternoons. Results are available on the Swim Guide website (theswimguide.org) or on the smartphone app, available for Android and Apple iphones.

E.coli bacteria makes its way into our rivers and streams from sewer/septic leaks and stormwater runoff — especially runoff from animal agricultural operations with substandard riparian buffers. E.coli can also indicate the presence of other, more harmful microbes, such as Cryptosporidium, Giardia, Shigella and norovirus.

Heavy rains and storms often result in spikes in E.coli contamination, increasing the risk to human health. Contact with or consumption of contaminated water can cause gastrointestinal illness, skin, ear, respiratory, eye, neurologic and wound infections. The most commonly reported symptoms are stomach cramps, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and low-grade fever.

In general, waterways that are located in more remote areas or near protected public lands that lack a lot of agriculture, development or industrial pollution sources are the cleanest and will be less affected by stormwater runoff. Areas closer to development and polluting agricultural practices are much more heavily impacted.

MountainTrue is Western North Carolina’s premier advocate for environmental stewardship, committed to keeping our mountain region a beautiful place to live, work and play. MountainTrue is home to the Broad Riverkeeper, French Broad Riverkeeper, Green Riverkeeper and Watauga Riverkeeper — the protectors and defenders of their respective watersheds. For more information, visit www.mountaintrue.org.

Waterkeeper Alliance is a global movement uniting more than 300 Waterkeeper Organizations and Affiliates around the world, focusing citizen advocacy on issues that affect our waterways, from pollution to climate change. Waterkeepers patrol and protect over 2.5 million square miles of rivers, streams and coastlines in the Americas, Europe, Australia, Asia and Africa. For more information, visit www.waterkeeper.org.

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(1) comment


Nothing is going to change if cattle farmers keep allowing their cattle to venture in and out of the waterways. I realize that it's easier and cheaper to just let cattle roam free, rather than installing pump systems and water reservoirs but it's *terrible* for water quality and the integrity of stream banks.

The stream in my own backyard is clear evidence of the damage caused by this practice, from increased algal growth, to the sheer amount of sediment washed downstream directly caused by the erosion along the stream bank from cattle operations. I'm in 100% support of local farming, but there are better ways to do it which don't pass off the pollution to your neighbors downstream.

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