Every year, the Amsterdam City Swim brings thousands of people to the capital city. It surely is a strange sight –one day a year, the city’s rather placid canals are invaded by swimmers from all over the country and turned into a two-kilometer race route. Leading along some of the city’s most beautiful canals, the whole event is set up as a fundraiser to collect donations for the ALS foundation.
This year’s Amsterdam City Swim cancelled due to contaminated water
This year, however, the City Swim had to be cancelled due to concerns regarding the water quality. Last Saturday one day before the event, the organization announced that this year’s race wouldn’t be able to take place. According to the board of the Amsterdam City Swim, the sudden change of weather conditions had caused a critical level of contamination of the canal water. Due to the combination of extreme drought and the large amounts of rain that Amsterdam had seen this past week, the sewers of the city overflowed and large amounts of contaminated water ended up in the canals. The level of e-coli bacteria exceeded the water regulations by far, posing too high of a risk to the health of the participants for the event to take place as planned.
A general look on the water quality of Amsterdam’s canals
With exception of the yearly city swim, swimming in the canals is not permitted and highly discouraged as health risks upon exposure to the water cannot be ruled out. Despite ongoing struggles, the water quality has improved significantly in the past decade – largely due to the connection of over 3000 houseboats to the sewage system. In 2007, in fact, a majority of the city’s houseboats were not connected to the canalization system, so that all waste would be disposed of directly into the canals’ water. Since then, Waternet, the city’s water authority, has been closely monitoring the water quality. Their goal is to, someday in the future, make the canal water clean enough for people to swim in.
“The City Swim is cancelled, but the fight for ALS continues!” – Amsterdam City Swim
Despite the sudden cancellation of the event, the board of the Amsterdam City Swim swiftly came up with an alternative solution: instead of swimming the predetermined route, they took the race to land and announced that this years city swim would be a city walk. Though many participants were disappointed, having had travelled from all corners of the Netherlands, the event still turned out as a success. All together, the participants and sponsors reached a sum of almost 1.5 million euros, which was handed over to the ALS foundation at the closing event at the Keizersgracht.