Arguments in favour of a
swim friendly policy

Avoid drownings by learning to swim well. Provide rather than prohibit access to water. We do not teach people to navigate traffic by keeping them away from the road to drop them unprepared into traffic madness suddenly.

Despite the large number of traffic fatalities, we do not send along a lifeguard with every person accessing the street. Above all, lifeguards create a false sense of security. Drownings also occur in water supervised by lifeguards. The water itself is not dangerous, but the ignorance is. Being able to swim well is of vital importance and should be an essential skill for everybody.

Make people self-reliant. Do not consider non-swimmers as the norm. Swimmers should not be penalized by those that cannot swim. Swimmers are entitled to freedom of movement. Nobody is forced to swim in open water.

Stop patronizing, stop trying to regulate everything, and abandon the thought that reaching 100% safety is possible: accidents are part of life. Fight misuse and danger, not the activity itself. Make people self-reliant instead.

Policymakers expect people to be responsible for the risk they willingly take when driving or smoking. Equally, there is no good reason for them not to allow outdoor swimmers. On the contrary, swimmers do not harm bystanders, whereas drivers and smokers may affect innocent bystanders' safety.

  • Implement an appropriate swimming policy through education and stop the elimination of swimming locations.

  • Distinguish between non-swimmers in guarded swimming locations and 'nature swimmers' that swim all year round wherever possible.

  • Provide clarity where swimming is not allowed because it is dangerous for everybody. Apply the same policy as abroad: swimming is permitted, unless indicated otherwise vs. swimming is forbidden, unless in swimming pools and recreational areas.

  • Secure waterways by providing exits, i.e., ladders or stairs.

  • Stick to the facts, do not spread fear. E.g., why would a century-old tradition of swimming La Meuse suddenly become unsafe?

Swimming is the healthiest and most injury-free sport overall. Good for the body (condition, heart, breathing, weight, pain management, muscles and joints, etc.) and mind (stress, mood, sleep, self-confidence, etc.)

One can practise swimming as a performance or meditation. Swimming in nature is also a source of well-being and happiness, pleasure, and health. Not a crime.

During corona times, outdoor swimming promotes resistance and a healthy immune system + more swimming spots = fewer people gathering together.

  • Swimming can play a significant role in public health. Investing in and encouraging swimming saves money. It deals with big societal problems such as burnout, depression, and suicide. It is better than pills, helplines, counselors, and all kinds of patchwork that treat symptoms but not the cause. Water is a natural healer.

Outdoor swimming increases environmental awareness by restoring our relationship with nature. The attention for (poor) water quality grows. Nonetheless, Flanders does not comply with European clean water standards, at all. This is due to, among others, nitrate pollution caused by fertilizers.

Note: water does not have to be 100% pure. People alienated from nature may associate bathing water with chlorinated water, which, ironically, is sometimes worse for hair, skin, and eyes. They think open water is 'dirty'. Authorities can map pollution by indicating where swimming should be forbidden because of water quality hazardous to human health

Swimming does not disturb nature: we are animals among animals, nature itself, even though we tend to forget this. Swimming in a nature reserve is not like swimming in a recreational domain. Open water swimmers do not want infrastructure (showers, toilets, changing rooms) but want to preserve nature, not pollute it.

  • Ensure adequate yearly water quality measurements accessible by the general public. Cf. the Netherlands.

  • Consult with organisations like Natuurpunt, Natagora, Bond Beter Leefmilieu and Inter-Environnement Wallonie.

  • Punish illegal dumping. We do not close roads or parks because somebody left garbage.

  • Heatwave swimmers will stay away from nature when creating more recreational swimming places for them.

Swimming location scarcity is becoming an ever-increasing problem considering the need for refreshment during heat waves. In just the last 25 years, half of all public swimming pools have disappeared. Large cities suffer from an acute shortage. Today, Brussels has no outdoor swimming locations. Antwerp has two overcrowded lidos. Visitors flood other open water swimming locations, including the sea. This shortage provides for an explosive cocktail that leads to unsafety.

Prohibition and penalties are NOT the solution. Solve the shortage of swimming locations instead. Water isn’t the problem, water shortage is. More water improves well-being. Water cools, connects, and improves morale.

  • Follow the example set by cities abroad by planning adequate swimming water for the heat waves (which occur at increasing frequency). Look at the past: Brussels once had beautiful baths. The city has now planned its first swimming pond!

  • Ensure a general policy or others will pay for the price of mismanagement elsewhere. And the principle of 'own water first' is not an example of good governance.

A swimming-friendly policy promotes safety, public health (which impacts public finances), and environmental awareness, a must in times of global warming.

PROBLEM = a legislation that treats all water as dangerous is absurd and outdated. In times of cholera, the obligation to shower was once the real reason to open swimming pools. Now the general rule is a nonsensical ban on swimming outside. Which, incidentally, is contrary to European directives.

Let us swim wherever possible, and like in most European countries: in purer water.

Stop the morbid urge to control and restrict: walking is also not restricted to pedestrian zones. Bring the people back to the healing water and the water back to the people.

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