Swimmers advised to take care before diving in

Horizons Regional Council’s swim spot monitoring results have shown many river and beach sites are currently not suitable for swimming or collecting kai following the recent heavy rainfall and flooding across the region.

Indicators that determine the grading for swim spots, which is E.coli for freshwater sites and Enterococci at coastal sites, can increase significantly with high rainfall as contaminants from urban and rural settings are washed into waterways.
Horizons science manager Elizabeth Daly says it is important that the public continue to review the Land Air Water Aotearoa (LAWA) website for the most up to date results and suitability for swimming at all our sites
“An example of this is Waitārere Beach, which has consistently shown high levels of Enterococci over the past few weeks and has resulted in a no swimming status for the Horowhenua site.
“Waitārere Beach is one of 80 swim spots Horizons monitors across the region on a weekly basis for water quality and is one of 10 beach sites,” says Dr Daly.
“Last season beach sites were considered safe for swimming between 75% and 100% of the time, with Waitārere Beach being safe to swim more than 90% of the time.
“This week Waikawa, Himatangi and Foxton beaches have also all returned one sample showing high levels of Enteroccoci. They are now being resampled with results expected tomorrow night and if a second high Enterococci result is returned, they will be closed as well.
Dr Daly says Horizons have increased sampling to twice weekly at Waitārere Beach and will not remove the no swimming signage that is in place until monitoring indicates that it is safe to swim.
“Unfortunately, this may take time and does mean the beach will likely be closed for contact recreation during the festive season.
“Due to the consistency of these high Enterococci results, which are not the norm for this coastal site, Horizons are also now undertaking faecal source tracking to see if we can determine the contamination cause. For example, if it is likely to be human, bird, or from farm animals.
“Enterococci is a naturally occurring bacteria found in the gut of humans and animals and at high levels indicates a health risk to people when swimming or participating in other water related activities.
“If the coastal swim spots council monitors for contact recreation returns a result greater than 280 Enterococci per 100mL the swim spot is resampled within 24 hours following Ministry of Health guidelines.”
In addition to Enterococci at coastal sites, our science team monitors for potentially toxic algae (Cyanobacteria) and E.coli at freshwater sites such as rivers and lakes.
“Water quality samples from freshwater swim spots are sent to an independent accredited lab for testing.
“Results are received within 48 hours and are updated on the LAWA website. Interactive maps show each of the swim spots tagged by a red, amber or green location maker to indicate that week’s bacteria results and whether it is safe to swim based on the Ministry of Health’s guidelines.
“LAWA holds swim spot information for the whole of New Zealand, so even if you are heading away you can still use the website to check results or find swim spots.
“It is important to note however, that even if LAWA is showing a swim spot is suitable for swimming you should still check the water when you get there.
“Take a look and see if the water is clear, meaning that you can see into the water. Check there is no debris such as rocks and branches and be cautious of how fast flowing and unpredictable water can be.
“If the water smells odd or is a strange colour it should be avoided. In general, do not go swimming within three days of heavy rain and if you do get sick after swimming in any lakes, rivers or beaches contact your doctor for advice.”