Outdoor swimming will become possible in three additional locations in Flanders this year, as the region and Belgium as a whole are responding to the growing demand for places to cool down.
As the water quality of Flemish waters, from canals to rivers and streams, has improved in recent years, outdoor open-water swimming in ponds, lakes and watercourses is becoming increasingly possible.
"Together with De Vlaamse Waterweg, we have made it possible to swim in open water in a number of places in Flanders," said Flemish Minister of Mobility and Public Works, Lydia Peeters.
"This year, three more locations will be added: one in Kortrijk, one in Vilvoorde and one in Mechelen."
In consultation with a number of towns and municipalities, permits have been granted for a number of demarcated safe zones, where swimming as an exercise (i.e. swimming laps) and/or recreational swimming is permitted under certain conditions.
Full list of locations
Open water swimming is now possible in the following locations:
For swimming laps: Damse Vaart in Damme, Abdijkaai near Bossuit-Kortrijk Canal in Kortrijk, old channel arm of Gevaerts-Zuid in Beernem/Oostkamp, Kanaal Bossuit-Kortrijk between bridge La Flandre and the Zwevegem lock at the Zwaaikom in Zwevegem.
Both recreational swimming and laps: Langerei near the lock chamber Coupure and the Damse Vaart in Bruges, Keerdok near the Dijle in Mechelen (this was already open for swimming laps last year), Insteekdok near Zeekanaal Brussel-Schelde in Vilvoorde.
A full map of all swimming locations (including indoors) can be found here.
More to be added
Flanders is continuing its research into new locations for open water swimming, which Peeters said is of "added value, especially with the rising summer temperatures."
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"Therefore, in consultation with cities and municipalities, we are going to investigate whether more locations can be offered where people can swim safely in open water and draw up a framework with clear rules," she said.
As has been made possible in Mechelen from this year, Peeters will also look into allowing both recreational and sports swimming in locations where people are only allowed to swim laps at the moment.
Peeters stressed that people should only swim in places that have been designated for that purpose by the region. "Lifeguards are provided at those locations and the Vlaamse Milieumaatschappij regularly checks the quality of bathing water."
Swimming and diving in streams, rivers and navigable waterways are both prohibited "because the safety of people cannot be guaranteed here."