Safety on the water

Information from the NH Steward of the Connecticut River Conservancy, American Red Cross,
Healthy Swimming Mapper and National Weather Service

The weekend forecast looks promising (fingers crossed) for warm, sunny days. In case you’re seeking fun and safe ways to cool off in the water, there are some important safety considerations to be aware of following all of the recent rain and flooding.

In talking with Kate, NH Steward from the Connecticut River Conservancy, there are several factors to consider:

  • flooding causes new things to be introduced into the water :
    • car oil from the roadway or parking lot has to go somewhere in all the flood water – just one example of things that get deposited into our waterways
    • newly deposited snags
    • in addition to private septic flooding, more commonly, sewage treatment plants can and do overflow; this can carry fecal matter as well as other pollutants downstream.
    • new debris may be washed into the water, and with higher water levels from flooding may not be visible from the surface
  • other safety considerations
    • new bacteria, including e-coli are frequently common after heavy rain events
    • cyanobacteria blooms happen at various times depending on water conditions, and is something to pay attention to after rain events
    • safety markers and buoys can be washed away making it more difficult to locate safe spaces to enjoy water
    • river banks can become unstable
    • if you do come into contact with floodwater, wash any exposed skin
    • if you are recreating near a dam, pay attention to water releases. Forecasted releases and current conditions coming out of hydro dams can be found on Waterline
    • regardless of water conditions, wearing a personal flotation device (PFD) while recreating on the water is always important for safety
  • In a nutshell – proceed with caution
    • Often general recommendation is to wait a few days following a major rain event before using the body of water for recreation. This is a general rule of thumb, and varies by body of water based on several factors.
    • If you’re going to enjoy the water this weekend, enjoy it in an area you know well and have observed frequently.
    • Are the water conditions different than normal?
      • consider how fast the water is flowing compared to normal conditions
      • strong currents can persist much longer than the rain event itself, the strength of the current may be deceiving when viewing it from land
      • consider how well you can see through the water
        • new debris, unstable footing etc. can cause unsafe footing
  • Check resources to understand flood status, and current warnings for local bodies of water

Every Wednesday, CommunityCare of Lyme lifts up a wellness topic, embracing the widest possible definition of individual and community well-being. We include local and national resources, individual and group programs and practices, and personal stories, videos, or songs that have something to teach us all. We are always seeking guest contributors! 

If you have a wellness-themed topic you would like to share or learn more about, please reach out to

Shelby Wood
Manager of Volunteer Participation
CommunityCare of Lyme
802-468-7776 (cell)
603-795-0603 (CCL office and help line)