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Water Quality

Water quality is important issue for paddlers as poor water quality carries the risk of illness for those visiting our waterways.

Here we share information on issues around water quality, helping you identify, report and – where possible – improve the quality of our rivers, canals and waterways.

Weil’s disease (Leptospirosis)

Weil’s disease is the result of an infection caused by bacteria called Leptospira. Symptoms can range from mild (such as headaches, muscle pains, and fevers) to severe (bleeding from the lungs or meningitis). If the infection causes an infected person to turn yellow, have kidney failure and bleeding it is then known as Weil's disease.

Weil’s disease is often transmitted by animal urine or by water or soil containing animal urine coming into contact with breaks in the skin, eyes, mouth, or nose.

To prevent infection, it is recommended that you cover cuts to minimise the risk of infection and always wash thoroughly as soon as possible after being out on the water. If you experience poor health, such as flu-like symptoms, consult your doctor as soon as possible. For more information on Weil ’s disease see the Leptosirosis page on NHS Direct.

Blue Green Algae

Paddlers are highly likely to use waterways which at sometimes of the year are susceptible to potentially harmful Blue Green Algae. Blue Green Algae is just one of a number of algal species that live naturally in inland waters. When conditions are just right – still water, high nutrient input from such sources as fertilizers (phosphate), calm, hot and sunny weather – algae can reproduce rapidly and very quickly out-compete other plant life to dominate the lake causing algal ‘scums’ and blooms. The algae are unsightly and can be toxic to both people and pets.

Blue Green Algae is difficult to identify, but warning signs will often be present at waters where it is known to be present. If you suspect Blue Green Algae may be present, please contact the Environment Agency Hotline on 0800 80 70 60.