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Use Common Sense Swimming after Rain

This page contains information about annual summer water quality testing and safe swimming.
Updated: 5/12/2018 12:00 a.m.

Annual summer water quality tests began this week with Northland Regional Council (NRC) staff taking and analysing water samples from Northland's popular beaches, rivers and lakes.

The water testing looks for bacteria used to gauge the risks of contracting gastrointestinal and other infections while using beaches, rivers and lakes for swimming, water sports and other forms of recreation.

Hundreds of samples will be taken from 46 popular coastal sites and 14 freshwater locations across the region.

Results are posted on the "Can I Swim Here?" section on the national environmental reporting website LAWA:

Can I Swim Here - Land Air Water Aotearoa (LAWA) (

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

"We let the health board and relevant district council know of any results showing elevated bacterial levels, typically within 48 hours, and it's their responsibility to take any further action needed," NRC Chairman Shepherd says.

Whangarei District Council (WDC) Environmental Health, Health and Bylaws Team Leader Tamsin Sutherland said when a positive test for location in the Whangarei District was reported WDC would carry out further testing to see if contamination had resolved naturally in the days between tests.

"This 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," she said.

"However, we want members of the public to use good common sense if there has been heavy rain, because when rainwater runs across land and into waterways, it can carry pollution like a coliforms (poo bacteria), from birds, stock, and even humans.

"Testing results tend to be worse in wet summers than in dry summers, and I think most people know to take recent into account when deciding whether to swim or gather shellfish, but it doesn't hurt to remind people."

"The usual advice is not to swim in an area for two days after it has had heavy rain and to look for warning signs indicating unsafe water.

"As a rule of thumb, don't swim if the water looks dirty or murky, smells or has scum on its surface and look out for or consider any potential sources of contamination, both nearby and upstream."



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