West Virginia University

07/09/2024 | News release | Distributed by Public on 07/09/2024 06:45

WVU hydrologist says schedule flexibility will be key for safe swimming in Seine River during Paris Summer Olympics

Jason Hubbart, a WVU physical hydrology professor in the Davis College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, said event timing can be adjusted to ensure swimmer safety in the Seine River during the Paris Summer Olympics. Hubbart has extensive experience testing and monitoring large water systems. (WVU Photo/Brian Persinger)

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A West Virginia Universityphysical hydrology professor sees planned usage of the Seine River for several swimming events during the Paris Summer Olympics as the culmination of decades-long efforts to restore the river for recreation.

Jason Hubbart, interim associate dean for research in the WVU Division for Land-Grant Engagement, associate director of the West Virginia Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Stationand professor of physical hydrology in the Davis College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, studies water in all of its phases, the amount and timing of water runoff and flow regimes, and what's carried in the water.

Hubbart cautions water quality reports for the Seine River are specific to a point in time and place - instantaneous water conditions that can and will change - and predicts officials in Paris will ensure a safe swimming space for the Summer Olympics, the first in the 'City of Light' since 1924.


"In the last century, the river's become so polluted that people really cannot swim in it. In many locations it's illegal to swim in the Seine. The city planners of Paris realized the Olympics were coming so a new sense of urgency was formed to clean up the river for two major reasons - one is, of course, tourism, the other is to have a clean water body for swimmers to enjoy and compete in during the Olympics.

"Many practices have been improved in upland areas to reduce the amount of stormwater runoff that reaches the Seine River, to improve how they manage the landscape so it reduces runoff and potential pollutants to the Seine, and to develop a large underground complex to hold excess stormwater runoff during high rainfall events to limit overflow. They've also been dredging the river for a very long time. Millions and millions of tons of garbage have been removed from the river.

"River conditions are constantly changing. The Seine, right now, has days where it's probably not safe to swim in, but it could be that tomorrow or next week it will be safe to swim. That's due to the rainfall and runoff regime - a normal, natural process. It's important to qualify that, after rainfall events, flows recede or given other environmental conditions - the time of year, for example, or other activities that are occurring upland - can very much influence the quality of water at any given moment.

"That's where being flexible for the International Olympic Committee, in terms of timing for swimming events, is probably going to really pay off. They have built in that flexibility so they can be sure to have folks out there swimming when the water is quality enough to ensure their safety. I don't think that we need to be overly concerned. I think the authorities will take good care of the swimmers and the timing of the swimming.

"The river systems I've worked on here in the United States - the Monongahela, the Missouri, Mississippi, the Potomac - these large systems, we've tended to think less of them in terms of designated areas for safe recreation, but we are more so thinking of them that way these days.

"No matter the motivation - whether it be the Summer Olympics or something else - it's incredibly important that we take good care of our water supplies. I think of rivers and streams as the circulatory system of the planet. I think of our atmosphere and our global climates and regional climates as the origin of the rain that falls on the ground and leads to this circulatory system on the planet, and that circulatory system carries everything that we do." - Jason Hubbart, professor of physical hydrology, WVU Davis College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, interim associate dean for research, WVU Division for Land-Grant Engagement, and associate director, West Virginia Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station

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