More certainty for swimmers as monitoring changes

More certainty over water quality at popular Taranaki swimming spots is set to emerge from a new-look sampling and testing programme that’s getting underway for the summer.  

From 1 November Taranaki Regional Council is switching to all-weather sampling at fixed weekly intervals at 40 popular beaches and swim spots, instead of sampling only during fine weather.  The new approach recognises that surfers, kayakers and even hardy swimmers may still take to the water in poor weather.

“One of the perks of living in Taranaki is the many opportunities we have to enjoy our region’s rivers, lakes and beaches,” says the Council’s Director-Environment Quality, Abby Matthews.

“The advice from health authorities has always been to avoid swimming for three days after heavy or prolonged rainfall, and this new regime will show why this remains sound advice.”

She says the key thing to remember is that although the monitoring is likely to reveal more exceedances of contamination guidelines this summer, it won’t necessarily mean overall water quality is getting worse.

“This summer we expect to see more exceedances of contamination guidelines because now we’ll sometimes be sampling at times when run-off has contaminated the water. As in the past, all results will be available online.’’

The Council has been monitoring recreational water quality for the past 25 summers and Ms Matthews says the work has served the region well.

“Up until now, our system’s been designed to target weather conditions when people are most likely to be swimming. It has also allowed us to focus on identifying contamination from other sources, which would be masked by run-off contamination.

“This summer our focus will be on keeping people informed of the suitability of rivers, lakes and beaches for swimming and recreation during a range of conditions. We’ll also be bringing the monitoring programme into alignment with new national policy requirements.

“The monitoring is changing, so it’s an apples-and-oranges situation as far as comparisons go. It’s important to remember that in general, our coastal waters are of very good quality and freshwater swimming spots are mostly of good quality, with some problem areas from time to time.”

This year the Council will be monitoring waters at 40 sites across coastal beaches and freshwater swimming spots. Results are graded using a traffic light system: green is good for swimming, orange means caution is advised, while red means a site is currently unsuitable for swimming.

Monitoring started on 1st November and results will be posted at link) and link) as soon as they are available – look for the ‘Can I Swim here?’ pages. District councils will issue any warnings that may be necessary. Contamination guidelines are set nationally.

The first test results will be available on Thursday 4 November. For more information, see link)