Swimming in the Horizons region

At Horizons, we recognise the importance of being well informed and that is why every summer we monitor water quality at over 80 popular swim spots across the region, providing you with information on the potential health risks in our waterways.

Each swim spot is tested for faecal indicator bacteria including E. coli for freshwater and Enterococci for coastal waters, as well as cyanobacteria, which is also known as potentially toxic algae. Each site is graded according to a traffic light system as recommended by the Ministry of Health.

At coastal sites you might come across scum or brown foam. Click here to read more about what is, why it is harmful and what it looks like.

Alongside New Zealand’s 15 other regional and unitary councils, the information Horizons collects on our swim spots is shared on the LAWA website. 'Can I Swim Here?'. This not only provides our region’s results but swim spot data from around the country to help you make an informed decision about when and where to swim, along with information about available facilities at each site, the weather, how the water quality traffic light system works and facts sheets on monitoring, bacteria, algae and faecal indicators.

Our swim spot data is as up to date as possible; however unpredicted weather or other influences can have an effect on water quality in between monitoring. To judge the suitability of a swim spot on site, use the following guidelines:

  • If the water looks clean and clear, it should be safe to swim.
  • Wait 72 hours after heavy or persistent rainfall before getting into the water.
  • In high flow, swimming in rivers is never recommended regardless of E.coli levels.
  • Be mindful of potential risks when swimming; hazards in natural environments can include cliffs, sunken logs, rocks and trees in rivers, and rips at beaches.
  • If musty smelling, black slimy mat-like growths are observed on river bed stones during low river flows, it is safest for you and your dog to avoid using the river.
  • Levels of cyanobacteria in lakes can change rapidly. If you see a light green coloured scum forming on the lake avoid contact with the water and keep animals out. This LAWA factsheet will help you know what to look for.