Water -- South Carolina Swimming Advisories
South Carolina lakes and rivers are great places to cool off and relax with friends and family. As with any outdoor activity, you should always be safe when swimming in natural waters. Some of the rivers and streams in South Carolina have swimming advisories, letting you know that swimming there may make you sick.
What are Swimming Advisories?
The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) tests rivers, lakes and streams all over the State. Sometimes these tests show high amounts of bacteria for some of our streams and rivers. DHEC puts up a swimming advisory sign where high amounts of bacteria have been found and people commonly swim.
Advisories are cautions that water may contain harmful germs. Since natural waters change so often, DHEC can only make general statements about the health risks of swimming in them; we cannot say exactly what the water is like at any particular time.
How Could I Get Sick?
Although water quality in South Carolina is generally good, DHEC can’t guarantee that you won’t get sick from swimming in a local swimming hole. There is always some risk of swimming in natural waters.
However, there is a greater chance of getting sick in waters with more bacteria. You may get sick by swallowing the water or putting your head under water. Most bacteria will not harm you but disease-causing germs are more likely to live where there is more bacteria.
While you cannot always protect yourself from getting sick while swimming, you can be aware of advisories and choose not to swim in those areas. If you do decide to swim, don’t swallow the water. It may also be good to avoid swimming in warm, still waters or swimming too soon after it rains.
Click here for an interactive map of popular swimming areas with advisories. For more information about the swimming advisories, see our Frequently Asked Questions or call our Information Line toll-free at 1-800-360-5655.
You Can Help
In some way, we all contribute to the pollution that contaminates our lakes and streams. Here are some ways you can help keep our waters safe for swimming:
- Pick up pet waste. Don’t leave it in the street or yard.
- Plant or leave vegetation (PDF) along waterways to help filter runoff.
- Keep domestic animals out of waterways
- Properly maintain your septic system.
- Report sewer leaks and manhole overflows to your local utility or DHEC.
Tips for Safe Swimming
- Be aware of swimming advisory signs.
- Do not go swimming or rafting during a storm or right after it rains.
- Avoid swallowing river, stream or lake water.
- Never swim alone. Always bring somebody with you.
- Avoid swimming in still, warm or muddy water.
- Never dive into shallow water or where you cannot see the bottom.
- Never use alcohol or drugs while swimming or boating.
- Never swim with deep cuts or wounds.
Links and Resouces
- Swimming Advisory Brochure (PDF)
- CDC Healthy Swimming Website
- What is the 303(d) List of Impaired Waterbodies?
- South Carolina’s Watershed Homepage
- View the Current 303(d) List
- Runoff Pollution Homepage
- EPA Watershed Website