When will it finally be safe to swim in the James River?

When will it finally be safe to swim in the James River?

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - By this time in June, many Richmonders are already out enjoying the cool James River water as summer heat builds.

Not this year.

While expert boaters are out on the water, regular people should play it safe. Not only does heavy rain raise the level of pollutants and bacteria in the river, it's just plain unsafe unless you know what you are doing.

Here's the river level graph from the Westham Gauge as of Wednesday morning at the Willey Bridge right near Bosher's Dam.

The river is at more than 7 feet and dropping, but it's not dropping quickly. With a saturated soil after recent record-setting rain, creeks and streams are still flowing well above average. The blue and black dots indicate stream flow data is very high.

Groundwater is high as well.

Here's a map of where the rain fell over the past two weeks.

May went into the books as the rainiest on record in Richmond's climate history.

Though the heaviest rain was mainly north and east of Richmond, there has still been plenty of rain in the James River watershed - so much that it'll take a long time for the river level to drop to the 5 foot level.

That 5-foot level is important because it means life jackets are required. This from http://jamesriverwatch.org/ about the Westham Gauge:

Frequent swimmers and boaters, especially those with young children, should know that even at 5 feet it's still best to wait until the level drops to around 4.25 feet before feeling truly comfortable swimming in their favorite spots.

The level is likely to stay above that 5' threshold until this weekend (June 9-10) or even later.

With so much groundwater, it's going to take a while to go down.

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