Using Toronto's Beach Water Quality Reports

Find out how to tell if Toronto's beaches are safe for swimming

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Sitting right on the shores of Lake Ontario, Toronto is a city with some great waterfront attractions and many beautiful beaches to take advantage of during warmer months. But what about the lake itself and the quality of the water for swimming? 

Swimming in the lake can be a nice way to spend a hot summer day, but pollution means taking a dip isn't always such a great idea, health-wise. While you should always avoid swallowing the water as much as possible, Toronto Public Health (TPH) also tests the water quality at Toronto's eleven supervised beaches during June, July and August. The beaches tested are:

  • Marie Curtis Park East Beach
  • Sunnyside Beach
  • Hanlan's Point Beach
  • Gibraltar Point Beach
  • Centre Island Beach
  • Ward's Island Beach
  • Cherry Beach
  • Woodbine Beaches
  • Kew - Balmy Beach
  • Bluffer's Park Beach
  • Rouge Beach

Water is tested daily for E. coli levels to make sure swimmers won't be exposed to too much of this bacteria. When levels are too high, TPH posts signs warning against swimming both at the beach and online. As a point of  reference, the standard for beach water quality in Ontario is set by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change at: 100 E.coli per 100 millilitres of water. Swimming in water with E.coli levels higher than this provincial standard may expose swimmers to increased risk of infections.


Blue Flag Beaches

Luckily, Toronto is also home to several Blue Flag Beaches. The international Blue Flag program awards beaches that have particularly good water quality, safety standards and focus on the environment, and in 2005, Toronto became the first Canadian community to certify its beaches under the program. Toronto's Blue Flag Beaches include:

  • Bluffers Beach Park
  • Centre Island Beach
  • Cherry Beach
  • Gibraltar Point Beach
  • Hanlan's Point Beach
  • Kew-Balmy Beach
  • Ward's Island Beach
  • Rouge Beach

How to Find the Latest Beach Water Quality Update

if you're wondering if your beach of choice is safe for swimming on a specific day, the status of the beach water is updated daily. There are four ways to find out the current water status at any particular beach.

By phone:
Call the Beach Water Quality Hotline at 416-392-7161. A recorded message will first list the beaches that are open for swimming, and then those at which swimming is not recommended.

Visit the City of Toronto's SwimSafe page for the up-to-date status of all city 11 beaches. You can see a small map of all the beaches, or visit the detailed page for the beach you're interested in. You can also check out the history of swim safety for a particular beach. Just note that water quality testing doesn't begin until June.

Through your smart phone:
If you prefer, you can download the Toronto Beaches Water Quality app provided by the City of Toronto for both Apple and Android devices. The handy app provides the following:

  • A list of supervised beaches in Toronto
  • A map of Toronto Beaches
  • Daily updates of E.coli readings and swimming conditions
  • Past E.coli levels in beach water for the current year

Both Apple users and those on an Android phone can also get a free app called Swim Guide, created by the non-profit, charitable organization Lake Ontario Waterkeeper. Swim Guide offers information not just on Toronto beaches, but on many other beaches in the GTA.

On site:
While at one of Toronto's eleven beaches, you should always look for the water quality sign before entering the water. When E. coli levels are unsafe, the sign will read "Warning - Unsafe for Swimming".

What to Do When the Water is Unsafe

If you find out that the beach you were hoping to visit isn't safe for swimming, remember that just because the water at a beach may be unsafe for swimming doesn't mean the beach itself is closed. You can still pack the sunscreen and head out for a day of lounging, sunbathing or sports in the sand. And chances are good that even though your beach of choice isn't swim-safe on a particular day, most of the other Toronto beaches will be. So take it as an opportunity to check out a different stretch of sand for the day.

Or, you can also grab your bathing suit and check out one of Toronto's many indoor and outdoor public pools. There are 65 indoor pools and 57 outdoor pools, as well as 104 wading pools and 93 splash pads - so you have lots of options for cooling off.