Summer swim spot survey starts soon

4 Nov 2015

Annual summer water quality tests indicating how suitable our most popular beaches, rivers and lakes are for swimming, water sports and other forms of recreation will be underway again soon.

Northland Regional Council chairman Bill Shepherd says testing is due to begin Monday 23 November and will run right through until Tuesday 23 February.

Councillor Shepherd says hundreds of samples to check bacterial levels will be taken from 47 popular coastal sites and 13 freshwater locations Northland-wide.

Results will be posted on the national environmental reporting website LAWA. A link to the website for those wanting to check water quality at their favourite spot can be found at www.nrc.govt.nz/swimming

Depending on bacteria in them, samples are graded either 'green' (suitable to swim), 'amber' (potentially unsuitable for swimming) or 'red' (unsuitable for swimming).

Weekly results are also forwarded to the Whangarei, Far North and Kaipara District Councils, the Northland District Health Board (DHB) and other interested parties.

"The DHB and relevant district council are informed of any results showing elevated bacterial levels within 24 hours and it's then the board and the appropriate district council's responsibility to take action."

Bill says that action can include further site investigations to establish the source of any contamination, public warnings not to swim or gather shellfish and putting up permanent warning signs at the worst sites.

He says simple tips to judge water quality include not swimming for two or three days after heavy rain or if there are warning signs indicating unsafe water.

"Also don't swim if water looks dirty/murky, smells or has scum on its surface and be aware of potential sources of contamination, both nearby and upstream."

Bill says most popular spots monitored by the council are usually suitable for swimming, but points out they can still be temporarily contaminated by run-off from land for several days after heavy rain. He says water quality concerns can be reported to the regional council's freephone 24/7 Environmental Hotline on (0800) 504 639.