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New online guide to safe swimming launched

New online guide to safe swimming launched
December 20, 2016

New Zealanders are being encouraged to go online to check the quality of the water at coastal and freshwater swimming sites this summer.

The new ‘Can I swim here?’ feature on environmental monitoring website Land, Air, Water Aotearoa (LAWA) enables swimmers to check water quality before hitting their favourite swimming spots with the website showing water quality from over 500 rivers, lakes, and coastal beach sites all over New Zealand

Part of LAWA’s aim to provide New Zealanders with more accessible information about natural resources, 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 New Zealanders love swimming and getting out on the water and this new tool will provide up-to-date information on their favourite spots.

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

“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.

However, Woodhead emphasised that people still need to think twice before swimming after heavy rain, advising “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. 

LAWA was launched in 2014 to provide New Zealanders with more accessible information about natural resources. It is a collaboration between New Zealand’s 16 regional and unitary councils, the Cawthron Institute, and the Ministry for the Environment, and has been supported by the Tindall Foundation. 

The LAWA website displays data on the health of our rivers and lakes, water quality at bathing beaches, real-time river flows, rainfall and groundwater data, and air quality. Work on other environmental indicators for LAWA is ongoing and next year the website will show information on groundwater quality and land values. The ‘Can I swim here?’ topic will also be enhanced with additional information planned to be posted about which of our waterways are suitable for swimming, and which aren’t. 

For more information go to www.lawa.org.nz 

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