Find out where’s good to swim this summer

Summer recreational water quality monitoring of 750 popular swim spots across New Zealand is now underway. 

The Land, Air, Water Aotearoa (LAWA) website shows the latest monitoring results from Kaitaia to Stewart Island through the ‘Can I swim here?’ tool, so you can decide where’s best to swim wherever you are in New Zealand.

Hawkes Bay Regional Council Marine and Coastal Scientist Anna Madarasz-Smith is the LAWA project ‘Can I Swim Here?’ Lead.

“For many of us, summer is not complete without a swim in the great outdoors. With overseas travel off the cards, we’re all spending this season holidaying at home. We are very lucky to have world-class beaches, rivers, and lakes on our doorstep and this summer is a chance to discover new swim spots, or rediscover old favourites.

“During the summer months, environmental officers from New Zealand’s regional councils and unitary authorities regularly monitor popular swim spots and the results are published on the LAWA website.

“Most monitored swim spots are suitable for swimming most of the time. However, you can get ill from contaminated water, so I encourage swimmers to check LAWA for the latest recreational water quality results, along with historical data, local conditions, and other info to help them decide where’s good to swim,” said Mrs Madarasz-Smith.

The LAWA ‘Can I swim here?’ online tool uses a traffic light system of red, amber, and green to show the health risk of swimming at a chosen site based on the most recent monitoring result.

A green icon means the result is suitable for swimming, amber means caution is advised, and red means the water is not suitable for swimming either because the risk of infection or exposure to potentially toxic algae is high.

The weather is predicted to be fine for most of the country over the festive period with hotter than average temperatures, but there’s a chance of rain later in the season. Heavy or prolonged rain can increase the risk of unsuitable water quality for swimming by washing contaminants into our waterways, while hotter weather can increase the chance of potentially toxic algae blooms in freshwater.

“Water quality changes, so a big part of keeping you and your family safe is knowing what to think about before you decide where to swim. Our Swim Smart Checklist includes checking water quality monitoring results on LAWA, not swimming for 2 – 3 days after heavy rain, and avoiding rivers and lakes where there are potentially toxic algae blooms present,” said Mrs Madarasz-Smith.

This year, the LAWA project has introduced new water quality historical displays on the swim spot page to help would-be-swimmers decide where is suitable for a dip. The new donut graph display of results from the past five swim seasons is helpful for seeing the performance of a swim spot over time, and the long-term grades respond to the recent Government Freshwater National Policy Statement. The long-term grades allows swimmers to quickly identify swim spots that are truly excellent and the ‘poor’ grade helps to signal sites where there may be an increased risk of getting sick because historical results have not always met swim guidelines.  Where the long term grade is ‘Poor’, this signals a need to look a bit closer, or call your regional council to get some further information.

In addition to water quality data and warnings, ‘Can I swim here?’ also has extra info that will help keep families safe and discover great swim spots, including local weather, tides, surf, water temperature, beach lifeguard patrol, and site recreational activities and facilities.