The Cahaba River is the longest free-flowing river in Alabama and is among the most biologically diverse rivers in the US.

The Cahaba Riverkeeper defends the ecological integrity of the Cahaba River and its watershed and advocates for the scientific study of its waters. To continue their mission, they've now provided a swim guide to help monitor water quality all summer.

In a recent study, Cahaba Riverkeeper discovered high E. coli levels in a few sites along it's course. This includes high levels at Bains Bridge and moderate levels at Highway 280 and Helena Amphitheater.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention describes E. coli as,

Bacteria normally live in the intestines of people and animals. Most E. coli are harmless and actually are an important part of a healthy human intestinal tract. However, some E. coli are pathogenic, meaning they can cause illness, either diarrhea or illness outside of the intestinal tract. The types of E. coli that can cause diarrhea can be transmitted through contaminated water or food, or through contact with animals or persons.

On the swim guide, you can watch the E. coli levels from week to week fluctuate, sometimes dramatically, especially after rainfall.

Cahaba Riverkeeper warns that we should not assume a low E. coli level means that it is necessarily safe or risk-free to make contact with the water.

As always, swim at your own risk.