New water quality website helps swimmers check the cleanest swimming spots

As swimmers flock to the country's beaches and swimming spots a new app helps you check how clean they are.
Trevor Read

As swimmers flock to the country's beaches and swimming spots a new app helps you check how clean they are.

Swimmers wanting to see if their favourite spot is clean will now be able to check online. 

Land, Air, Water Aotearoa (Lawa) have expanded their website to include water testing data from regional councils around the country to give people an idea how clean the water is. 

Councils conduct water testing by collecting physical samples then measuring the level of indicator bacteria - e.coli or enterococci - which can make people sick.

The new Can I Swim Here? app makes it easy to see which swimming spots aren't up to scratch.
Lawa

The new Can I Swim Here? app makes it easy to see which swimming spots aren't up to scratch.

A district council will alert the public that a swimming area isn't safe once e.coli levels reach 500 parts per 100 millilitres, for example. 

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With three tiers a site can be rated - green, orange or red - and with the whole country on display it's easy to see which areas are under-performing. 

Jeremy Wilkinson/Fairfax NZ

Director for environment quality Gary Bedford discusses water testing in the Taranaki region

Lawa chairman and Otago Regional Council chair Stephen Woodhead said the latest results displayed on the Can I swim Here? showed that most monitored sites throughout New Zealand were acceptable to swim at. 

As of Thursday parts of the Manawatu and greater Wellington appear to have the highest concentration of red-dots whereas the Hawke's Bay had no areas that were unacceptable. 

Taranaki's Waiwhakaiho River at Merrilands Domain - one of New Plymouth's top swimming holes - turned up an unacceptable rating, with a 1 to 5 per cent risk of illness in the latest round of testing. Lake Rotokare also scored an unacceptable rating due to an ongoing algae problem. 

The Taranaki Regional Council already have an almost-identical site for waterways and coastal swimming sites in the region where swimmers can check the results of its testing week-by-week. 

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Green Party water quality spokesperson Catherine Delahunty said she didn't think Can I Swim Here? went far enough in holding councils with dirty waterways to account. 

"It's fine for a quick look but it's missing a few key things," she said.

"It's missing data about why a river or swimming spot is unacceptable, it doesn't tell you the whole picture."

Delahunty said there was a lot more to river health than just what makes people sick.

"Clarity, temperature, Ph level and a whole range of other variables come into water health," she said. 

"I think regional councils should be responsible for much more than making sure people don't get sick."

However, Delahunty did praise Lawa's initiative in developing an easy tool for the public to use to get them engaged in the issue of water quality as a whole. 

 - Stuff

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