Public health agency for Snohomish County
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Water Recreation
Water Recreation Program conducts routine inspections of public water recreational facilities in Snohomish County. These facilities include swimming pools, wading pools, spray pools, and spas at parks, hotels, athletic clubs, apartment complexes and schools. The Water Recreation Program also reviews plans and inspects construction of new and remodeled public swimming pools/spas. Additionally, the Water Recreation Program investigates injuries and complaints of illness or unsanitary conditions at all public facilities.
Swimming Health and Safety
Swimming at the pool or beach is a great way for families to enjoy the outdoors, but you should take precautions to protect everyone's health.

Take swimming seriously

About eight people die of drowning each year in Snohomish County, most in our natural lakes, rivers, or Puget Sound. Often, teens and young adults go beyond their limits, not recognizing the dangers of cold water or swift currents.

Teach your kids to swim. Wear lifejackets when boating. Never swim alone. Few Snohomish County beaches have lifeguards, so always have an adult designated to watch young children.

Avoid spreading or getting disease

Water can spread bacteria, such as E. coli, from people or animals.

  • People with infectious illness, including vomiting or diarrhea, should not go swimming.
  • Shower thoroughly before entering a pool
  • Small children should be taken on frequent bathroom breaks
  • Everyone should thoroughly wash their hands with soapy water after using the restroom or changing diapers
  • Swimmers should wash their hands and face thoroughly with soapy water before eating or preparing food
Prevent swimmer’s itch

Swimmer's itch is a rash caused by an allergic reaction to parasites that typically infect some birds and mammals. The parasites come from infected snails which live in lakes, ponds, and oceans. After burrowing into a swimmer's skin, the parasite soon dies, causing pimply irritation and itching commonly called “Swimmer’s Itch.”

The parasites are more likely to be present in shallow water by the shoreline. Children are most often affected because they tend to swim, wade, and play in the shallow water more than adults. Also, they are less likely to towel dry themselves when leaving the water.

  • Do not swim in areas where swimmer's itch is a known problem or where signs have been posted warning of unsafe water
  • Do not swim near or wade in marshy areas where snails are commonly found 
  • Towel dry or shower immediately after leaving the water
  • Do not attract birds (e.g., by feeding them) to areas where people are swimming.
Prevent drowning

Always watch children when they are in or near the water – even if they know how to swim. About 8 people die of drowning each year in Snohomish County.

See the Safe Kids website for drowning prevention information.

Avoid waterborne illness
  • Don’t drink lake water
  • Don’t go in the water if you are sick, and don’t visit a public recreation area within 48 hours of being sick
  • Keep children who wear diapers or aren’t toilet trained out of the water
  • Prevent swimmer’s itch by showering or towel drying right after you leave the water. Using sunscreen may also help prevent swimmer’s itch
  • Avoid all contact with water that has a blue or green colored scum layer (algae)—it can make you very ill

The Snohomish Health District regulates water quality and safety features at public and semi-private swimming pools. Local lakes and streams are monitored by the State Department of Ecology, Snohomish County Surface Water Management and through Environmental Protection Agency programs.

Many local waterways, including North Creek and Swamp Creek  in south Snohomish County, and the Stillaguamish River in north county, have been found to have high levels of fecal coliform, which can vary over time. Fecal coliform such as E. coli can be a cause of recreational water illness.

If you think you got sick from a public water or food source - such as a swimming beach, campground, or restaurant – contact the Snohomish Health District at 425.339.5278.

We will ask you questions about what you ate and where you’ve been over the past several days to try to narrow down the many possible causes of illness.



Pool and Spa Inspections
There are many critical processes in keeping a water recreational facility safe for the public to enjoy. A few of these include maintaining proper chemical balance for disinfection, appropriate gates and fences surrounding the water facility, and appropriate safety and emergency equipment.
Constructing, Remodeling or Altering a Pool and Spa
Our Water Recreation Program reviews plans for new, altered or remodeled spas, pools and other public water contact features.
Our staff conducts preopening inspections at construction sites during the construction of public swimming pools/spas. The plan review and inspection process help assure that the new, altered or remodeled pools and spas meet proper safety requirements. For general questions regarding the plan review process please contact our office.
List of Forms and Documents:
Application for Water Recreational Facility (WRF) Permit (8.1.1)
SHD Application for Water Recreational Facility (WRF) Permit
Construction Permit Application and Checklist (8.1.1)
This application needs to be completed for any new, altered or remodeled water recreation facility.
Construction Report (8.1.1)
This must be completed when a facility is finished
Injury Report Form (8.1.1)
Pool operator must fill out this form anytime there is an injury or death at a facility
Limited Use Pool Rule Sign (8.1.1)
Sign Rules - New rules require changes to all existing pool
Limited Use Spa Rule Sign (8.1.1)
Sign Rules - New rules require changes to all existing spa
Permit Process Checklist (8.1.1)
Steps to obtain a Water Recreation Facility permit
Pool and Spa Log Sheet (8.1.1)
SHD Pool and Spa Log Sheet
Variance Request (8.1.1)
This form is to be used to request a deviation from the Water Recreation Facility regulations
Complaints & Injury Reports
The Snohomish Health District conducts investigations of unsanitary and unsafe operating conditions at water recreation facilities resulting from public complaints. If there is a serious injury or drowning at a regulated pool or hot tub, the owner or operator must report it within 48 hours. A serious injury means someone called 911 or needed immediate medical treatment at a clinic or emergency room.
To report an unsanitary or unsafe condition at a pool or spa simply complete the Water Recreation Complaint Form and send it to:
Environmental Health Division,
Water Recreation Program
3020 Rucker Avenue, Suite 104
Everett, WA 98201-3900
or e-mail it to
List of current rules and regulations regarding the Water Recreation facilities.
The Snohomish Health District Board of Health has adopted the Washington State Department of Health Rule Chapter 246-260 Washington Administrative Code (WAC), as Snohomish Health District Sanitary Code Chapter 7. These regulations apply to new and existing facilities, including all public pools and spas in Snohomish County.
List of regulations:
List of Snohomish Health District Pool Newsletters
Issue: 2009 (8.1.4)
Includes Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act Compliance and Summary
Issue: 2008 (8.1.4)
Includes articles: Avoid the Rush to Update Barrier Drains and Steps to Stop Crypto
Contact Info
Phone: 425.339.5250
Office Hours: Monday - Friday 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, closed: noon - 1:00 pm
List of Water Recreation Resources:
  1. CDC Health Swimming: When You Swim, Swim Healthy!  web
    Answers to your questions about Recreational Water Illnesses (RWIs)
  2. Fecal Accident Response Recommendations for Aquatics Staff  file
    SHD Fecal Accident Response Recommendations for Aquatics Staff
  3. Lifeguard Training: Aquatics Employment & Training  web
    Lifeguard Training: Aquatics Employment & Training (Seattle Parks and Recreation)
  4. National Swimming Pool Foundation  web
    National Swimming Pool Foundation (NSPF)
  5. Professional Pool Operators of America  web
    Professional Pool Operators of America (PPOA)
  6. Washington State Department of Health Water Recreation Program  web
    Water Recreation Safety

Last Reviewed and updated 7/20/2009