Beach Monitoring Program
Lake Powell has up to 1.5 million visitor-nights each year. A visitor-night is one person spending one night. Many beaches are used for water recreation and camping night after night all summer long. With such intense pressure, the proper disposal of human waste is very important. While swimming, it is common for small amounts of water to be ingested. Many diseases may be passed through a fecal/oral pathway, so if the water is contaminated with feces, the possibility of disease transmission exists. Feces of warm-blooded animals always contain Escherichia coli bacteria. Water can be tested for these generally non-pathogenic bacteria to indicate fecal contamination. Feces is a very hazardous substance due to the wide range of disease organisms it may harbor.
Strategic Plan to Protect Water Quality in Lake Powell
In 1995 there were 12 swimming closures due to fecal contamination. This contamination was of great concern to the National Park Service and the States of Arizona and Utah. To deal with the issue, they entered into a cooperative agreement and developed the Strategic Plan to Protect Water Quality at Lake Powell. The plan focused on an educational program, establishment of proper rules, defining of legal jurisdictions, facility improvements, development of the Lake Powell Technical Advisory Committee, and continued beach monitoring. The strategic plan has been a great success! Beach closures are now rare, and the number of samples exceeding public health standards each year has dropped dramatically.