New online guide to safe swimming launched

New Zealanders are being encouraged to do their surfing online before hitting their favourite swimming spots this summer.

Swimmers can check the quality of the water at coastal and freshwater swimming sites throughout New Zealand thanks to the new ‘Can I swim here?’ feature on environmental monitoring website Land, Air, Water Aotearoa (LAWA).

Information on water quality from over 500 rivers, lakes, and coastal beach sites all over New Zealand is now more accessible at www.lawa.org.nz.

children swimming in quality water

The ‘Can I swim here?’ feature provides a guide to water quality based on the results of bacterial monitoring done by regional and unitary councils during summer at popular swimming spots. For lakes and freshwater sites, E. coli bacteria levels are determined, and for coastal sites, the levels of enterococci bacteria are measured.

Chair of Local Government New Zealand’s Regional Sector Doug Leeder says Kiwis love swimming and getting out on the water, and this new tool will provide up-to-date information on their favourite spots.

“New Zealanders flock to our lakes, rivers and beaches, especially over summer,” Mr Leeder says.

“It’s important that we enjoy our waterways knowing they are suitable for recreational use. Many of us will be heading away on holiday soon so this is the ideal time for a valuable resource like this to become available.”

LAWA Chairman and Chair of the Otago Regional Council Stephen Woodhead says the latest weekly results show that most monitored coastal and freshwater sites throughout New Zealand are acceptable to swim at.

Mr Woodhead says people still need to think twice before swimming after heavy rain.

“Even a low risk swimming spot can be unsuitable to swim at from time to time and we recommend that people avoid swimming for 48 hours after heavy rainfall.”

How ‘Can I swim here?’ works

  • Weekly monitoring data on LAWA allows users to see the latest bacterial counts and how they might affect the water’s suitability for swimming, while also providing an overall recreational risk grade based on the previous three years of bacterial monitoring in summer.
  • The weekly and historic data will help the public build up a water quality picture for their local swimming spots and identify which sites may be susceptible from time to time to elevated bacteria levels.
  • LAWA shows bacteria levels over time to assess whether the water at our beaches is affected by bacteria and could pose a public health risk.
  • Based on the last three years of bacterial (enterococci) data, LAWA shows that most monitored coastal beaches are suitable for swimming in.