December marks the beginning of summer, and we are lucky enough to have some great swimming spots in Southland where people can cool off in the heat.
It’s important to be informed when choosing where you swim or collect shellfish, and Environment Southland has water quality monitoring results available online from December till the end of March to help you make an informed decision. The web page is www.es.govt.nz/swimming-and-shellfish
Director of Science and Information Graham Sevicke-Jones said the first step to choosing the right place is to check Environment Southland’s online information.
“We use a traffic light system on our online map to show if a site is OK for swimming. If the spot on the map is green, the risk of getting sick is very low, so it's OK to swim once you have checked the additional factors and risks. If it's orange or red the risk is higher, and you need to stay out of the water at this site. For shellfish, we use a red spot on the map to show that a site fails national standards for shellfish collection, and green to show that it passes.”
The second step is to use your own observations to work out what other things might have affected the water quality at a site.
“Heavy rainfall can cause nutrient and soil runoff from land, which then increases bacteria levels in waterways, and we recommend waiting for at least two days to swim after a downpour. Our SMART tips, which you can find online, list everything you need to take into account when wanting to enjoy the water this summer,” Graham said.
Environment Southland carries out regular monitoring for harmful bacteria at popular swimming spots from December through to the end of March (three beaches, seven rivers, and two lakes) and displays monitoring results on the online mapping system, Beacon. We also monitor water the water at eight shellfish gathering sites for harmful bacteria monthly, throughout the year.
The bacteria that can make us sick get into our waterways through human and animal waste. This can be from sewage, septic tank discharge, farming run-off, industrial pollution and boats.
Land, Air, Water Aotearoa (www.lawa.org.nz) also uses Environment Southland’s monitoring information to display water quality results at popular swimming spots. It’s here that you can check out the best places to swim around the country when on holiday.