Local governments to limit swimming in open waters
Governments want to regulate swimming in open water more strictly. Netherlands residents increasingly go swimming in places not designated for that, resulting in unsafe situations. Provinces and municipalities have long turned a blind eye but will now actively work on making these locations safer or actively discouraging swimming there, Trouw reports.
The Netherlands has over 800 official swimming locations where water quality is monitored during the summer, and the safe area is indicated. Swimming in other open water is discouraged and actively banned near bridges, locks, and waterways.
The main concern at unofficial swimming spots is safety. The water quality may be bad, causing swimmers to get sick. Or there may be shipping in the area, creating dangerous situations.
This causes a dilemma for municipalities. Because, despite the potentially dangerous situations, there is a need for more swimming space, especially in cities. “The warmer weather plays a role in this, but the popularity of swimming in open water is also on the rise,” Bernard Korte, director of the Netherlands’ institute for swimming locations safety NIVZ, said to the newspaper.
The Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management set up a team to map out whether unofficial swimming locations can be made safe enough to swim in. “If it is not possible to do so, swimming in such a place should be discouraged,” said Ciska Schets of the RIVM, leading the project. “That can be done by banning swimming, but also by removing swimming ladders or jetties, for example.” The team will publish a guide for municipalities at the end of this year.
According to the NVIZ, which is also on the team, it is often impossible for unofficial swimming locations in cities to meet strict safety requirements. “In nine out of ten cases, these locations don’t meet the safety requirements, for example, the safe distance from shipping routes,” Korte said. “Or they can’t get the water quality right because the location is too close to a sewage dump.”
Despite this, municipalities want to respond to their citizens’ needs by facilitating swimming in more locations. This is often at odds with the policy of the provinces, which are responsible for allocating official swimming spots. That creates a gray area where no one is really responsible for the safety at the unofficial swimming locations, Korte warned.