Government of Nova Scotia Government of Nova Scotia Nova Scotia, Canada


Inspection, Compliance and Enforcement

Nova Scotia Beaches: Monitoring and Sampling

BeachIt’s normal to find bacteria at beaches.

Heavy beach use influences bacteria levels along with high temperatures and heavy rains that may wash bacteria into the beach area. Weather conditions, rainfall, tidal action and other factors also influence water quality.

The detection of bacteria doesn’t mean there has never been bacteria present at the beach before, just not in numbers high enough to cause illness. While not common, it’s not unusual for any beach to experience higher than acceptable bacteria levels given certain conditions.

Beach Monitoring

The Lifesaving Society of Nova Scotia provides supervision and bacteriological water sampling for provincially supervised beaches across the province. The Halifax Regional Municipality also has a beach program that monitors beaches within the municipality. 

Not all beaches in Nova Scotia are tested. Provincially supervised beaches are regularly monitored for water quality and some municipalities (like Halifax Regional Municipality), conduct water quality testing at the beaches they oversee.

Advisory for swimming

When bacteria are present in samples at levels higher than national guidelines for recreational water quality, advisories are issued to inform people that swimming in these waters can pose a health risk. Once an advisory is issued, the advisory will remain in effect until water quality and bacteria levels return to acceptable levels as confirmed by sampling.

Bacteria tested

Water is tested to detect the presence of E.coli bacteria in fresh water or enterococci bacteria in salt water. The presence of either bacteria in recreational waters above acceptable guidelines indicate that fecal matter is present and if swallowed may cause illness.

Swimming at a beach that’s under an advisory

Swimming at a beach under an advisory could result in illness if water is swallowed during swimming or splashing.

Don’t swim if:

  • advisory signs have been posted
  • the water looks cloudier than usual, is discolored or smells bad
  • you are sick with diarrhea
  • you have an open cut or wound

If you swam at a beach that had a recent advisory posted and are worried about getting sick, symptoms can include diarrhea, vomiting, fever, abdominal cramps or other symptoms (like ear, eye or skin irritation). Consult with a healthcare professional if you’re experiencing symptoms.