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Coastal and marine

Safeswim water quality monitoring

Overall, the water quality in our bathing beaches and lakes is very good and meets New Zealand health guidelines. However, from time to time, water quality problems can arise.

Our Safeswim monitoring programme provides regular assessments of water quality at a range of beaches in the region, in an effort to keep them safe for the public.

Under the programme we will:

  • monitor dozens of beaches in the Auckland region this summer
  • regularly collect water samples from the selected locations
  • test samples for bacteria to identify any potential public health risk
  • provide the testing results to the public
  • put up signs on the beach, if there is a risk to public health, until further testing confirms that the water quality is safe.

You can access the testing results by:

  • visiting the 'latest monitoring' pages for beaches and lakes 
  • calling 0800 723 379.

Note: The Safeswim programme's testing results do not determine if beaches are physically safe for swimming or other recreational use.

We recommend that you:

  • obey any signs warning against swimming,
  • do not swim up to 48 hours after heavy rain,
  • avoid swimming in high risk areas such as stormwater outfalls and stream mouths.

On this page:

Reporting water quality issues

The events that are most likely to affect bathing beach water quality are:

  • overflows of sewage from the wastewater network
  • significant pollution of the stormwater system.

These may carry pollutants and contaminants into our streams, beaches and lakes.

We respond to pollution incidents to protect public and environmental health, and there are processes set up across the region to identify, resolve and manage risks. These include:

  • putting up signs
  • warning the community of problems, and
  • undertaking water quality testing to identify when water quality has improved.

Please report pollution to our Pollution Hotline on 09 377 3107.

Locations with current water quality issues

We have identified ongoing water quality issues at the locations listed below. We do not advise swimming and recreational water activities in those areas until these issues have been resolved.

Permanent warnings are currently posted at:

  • Cox’s Bay
  • Meola Reef
  • Weymouth Beach
  • Little Oneroa Lagoon
  • Wairau Outlet.

For the latest bathing water quality testing results:

  • see the 'latest monitoring' pages for beaches and lakes 
  • call 0800 723 379.

Beaches with a good history

Some beaches have a history of excellent water quality and present a low risk to public health.

For this reason, we do not undertake routine monitoring at the following beaches:

  • Goat Island Marine Reserve, Leigh
  • Anchor Bay, Tawharanui Regional Park
  • Tawharanui
  • Kendall Bay, Birkenhead
  • Cheltenham Beach, Devonport
  • Devonport
  • Sunkist Bay, Beachlands
  • Omana Beach, Omana Regional Park
  • Maraetai
  • Omaha
  • Wenderholm
  • Okoromai Bay

Which sites are being monitored?

We have assessed all of the 180+ beaches and freshwater sites in the region on their level of use, contamination risk and special significance.

We will announce the sites included in the 2015-2016 season before monitoring starts on 1 November.

We currently collect and analyse water samples on a weekly basis in accordance with national guidelines published by the:

  • Ministry for the Environment
  • Ministry of Health.

These guidelines determine if a beach is safe, unsafe or where re-testing is required.

We test the water for levels of bacteria called Enterococci (in marine water) and E. coli (in freshwater).

We also test for toxic algae in the Rodney lakes where a potential problem exists.

How we assess water quality

The two main methods we use to assess water quality and associated public health risks are:

  • regular water quality monitoring over the summer swimming season
  • responding to water quality problems where they are identified.

Regular monitoring provides a direct measure of water quality, and we make every effort to provide water quality test results as soon as they are available.

Routine samples are usually collected on a Tuesday so we can analyse them and address any issues before the weekend.

This means we may not be able to identify any changes in water quality until the next sampling day, but if we identify any issues we will take further action immediately.

Safeswim background information

In 2011 we undertook a thorough review of the Safeswim programmes inherited from the legacy councils to provide a more consistent, effective and regionally representative programme.

The review included a thorough assessment of all the beaches in the Auckland region based on four criteria:

  • level of full contact use (e.g. swimming)
  • level of partial contact use (e.g. kayaking)
  • risk of contamination
  • cultural significance.

We assessed all sites against these four criteria and ranked them to show us where routine monitoring would be most beneficial. We also ensured there was regional representation in the sites we chose.

This selection process ensured we can monitor water quality where there will be the greatest benefit to the public.

Contact us if you have any further queries.

We monitor the water quality at beaches and lakes weekly, over summer, to check for potential health risks.

When at the beach or a lake:

  • obey signs warning against swimming
  • do not swim up to 48 hours after heavy rain
  • avoid swimming in high risk areas, e.g. stormwater outfalls and stream mouths.

Report a water quality issue

We respond to pollution incidents to protect public health and the environment.

Sewage overflows or polluted stormwater systems are most likely to affect water quality as they carry contaminants into our streams, beaches and lakes.

To report a water quality issue, call our Pollution Hotline on 09 377 3107.

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