Water quality and conditions can change quickly. Recreating in contaminated water is a risk to human and animal health. To help keep you, your family, and dogs well this summer follow the Swim Smart Checklist below.
Avoid swimming after heavy rain
Wait at least two days before swimming after heavy or prolonged rain. This applies even to those swim spots that usually have great water quality because all sites can be affected by pollutants in stormwater run-off.
Follow any warning signs
Please follow the advice of any safety and warning signs from authorities. Signs may be at swim spot carparks, entrances, or by the water’s edge, and as warnings on LAWA.
Check the water is clean and clear
Don’t swim or allow dogs near the water if you notice potentially toxic algae in the river or lake, or if the water is murky/smells unpleasant. Generally, if you can’t see your toes in knee deep water, find a clearer spot to swim. This factsheet has more information on toxic algae and how to identify it.
Stay away from any pipes, culverts, and flocks of birds
Avoid swimming and other water activities near sources of potential contamination - instead find a different spot along the river, lake, or beach.
Check for hazards
Hazards at swim spots may include rip currents, underwater objects, stinging jellyfish, steep drop offs, and potentially toxic algae. Our lakes, rivers, and beaches are great natural playgrounds, but they can be unpredictable. Know your limits and never swim alone. If in doubt, stay out. For advice and to upskill on beach water safety visit Surf Lifesaving NZ.
The golden rule of swimming in the great outdoors is: Always check ‘Can I swim here?’ on the LAWA website for the latest information before you swim: lawa.org.nz/swim.
On 'Can I swim here?' you'll find the most up-to-date and historical recreational water quality results and advice from all 16 regional and unitary councils of Aotearoa New Zealand. The councils are monitoring a total of around 850 swim spots this summer.
While from time to time the water at a site may not be suitable for contact, there are many other ways to enjoy the spots listed on the LAWA website. This might include picnicking, beach sports, or walking. The LAWA ‘Can I swim here?’ tool can help you discover new spots and learn a bit about the site facilities before planning your day.