NRC undertakes water quality sampling at the most popular freshwater bathing sites in the region for 12 weeks over the summer months, as part of the Recreational Bathing Water Quality Programme. Samples are taken each week from these sites and analysed for illness causing bacteria. Sites are graded as red "unsafe", amber "caution" or green "safe" depending on the results. Results are posted weekly on the NRC website and forwarded to the three district councils and the District Health Board, for action where necessary.
A number of rivers and streams across the region are also sampled as part of the River Water Quality Monitoring Network (RWQMN). Sampled are taken from each site once a month and analysed for a range of parameters. At the end of each financial year, sites are graded from best to worst water quality based on the season's results.
During 2007-08, 19 freshwater bathing sites were sampled. At the end of the season, the median for nine sites was within the green (safe for recreational use) range; the median for six sites was within the amber (caution) range and the median for four sites was within the red (unsafe for recreational use) range. The suitability for recreation grade (SFRG) has now been calculated for 16 freshwater sites with sufficient data. Of these sites, eight have been graded as "poor" and eight have been graded as "very poor".
Ten sites were added to the RWQMN in 2007-08, bringing the total number of sites in the network to 34. The river rated as having the best water quality in 2007-08 was the Waipoua River. The river rated as having the worst water quality was the Manganui River.