Water monitoring underway at swimming spots

Water quality monitoring at Taranaki’s favourite beaches, lakes and rivers got underway this week, with more sites than ever before under the microscope.

Taranaki Regional Council has monitored recreational water quality every summer for the past 25 years. Until the end of March, Council staff will take samples at least weekly at up to 40 sites across the region. 

Following a survey last year, four new sites have been added to this year’s monitoring programme. They are Waiwhakaiho River at the Meeting of the Waters, Lake Rotorangi at Patea Dam, Tongaporutu estuary and Waitara River at Bertrand Road. Another two - Wai-iti Beach and Wai-inu Beach - will be monitored more frequently.

The Council’s Director-Environmental Quality Gary Bedford says the monitoring has three main purposes.

“Firstly, we’re checking whether the water quality is safe for recreational use such as swimming, paddling, kayaking, surfing or fishing.

“We are also looking at trends in the quality of recreational water, both marine and freshwater. The Council, farmers and the community have been working hard to improve freshwater quality for many years, so this helps measure the effect that is having.

“Finally, we are ensuring compliance with resource consents that may involve discharges to or near water and keeping a close eye on the effects of those activities.”

Samples are analysed for faecal indicator bacteria E.coli and enterococci and (at selected sites) for Cyanobacteria, which can be harmful to human health. The results are posted to the regional and district councils’ websites and the national LAWA website within 48 to 72 hours.

If results indicate an alert the site will be sampled again the following day, depending on the circumstances, as known factors such as heavy rain can influence results.

If the risk is unacceptable and action is needed the relevant district council will be informed. They then warn and inform the public. The Council would investigate the source of contamination and take enforcement action if necessary.

Last summer most freshwater sites were generally acceptable for recreational activities, with the majority of the unacceptable samples at three sites – near the mouths of the Waiwhakaiho River and the Te Henui and Waimoku streams.  This was most likely due to contamination from gulls, ducks and pukeko respectively. Coastal sites were consistently acceptable.

To see the list of all recreational water monitoring sites and view results click here. You can also view results for swimming spots across New Zealand at www.lawa.org.nz/explore-data/swimming(external link).