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Beach water testing to continue this summer

Beach water testing to continue this summer

Water quality testing at Auckland’s beaches looks set to continue this coming summer with Auckland City’s Works Committee agreeing to carry on with the Safeswim programme.

Safeswim is a regional programme involving the Auckland, North Shore and Rodney councils. The 2004 to 2005 summer will be the programme’s sixth year.

In past years, water quality tests have been carried out weekly at 15 beaches across the Auckland isthmus and Hauraki Gulf islands. The committee agreed to monitor water quality at Granny’s Bay, Waikowhai Bay and Blockhouse Bay after Watercare Laboratory Services removes the health warning signs from Manukau harbour beaches.

The tests measure bacteria levels and aim to reduce public health risks by updating the public on water quality and health education.

The results are made available to the public through an 0800 number and the Auckland City website.

Councillor Bill Christian, chairperson of the Works Committee, says the Safeswim programme is an important source of information for beach-goers.

“We are a nation of beach-goers and we are lucky to have numerous beaches within Auckland for both residents and visitors to use. However, beach water is not always safe to swim in, especially after rainfall, and the Safeswim programme provides an important monitoring and information service,” he says.

Mr Christian says the service has been well received. “Last summer there were 685 calls to the 0800 number and 2857 visits to the website. This has significantly increased since we began the programme back in 1999. In the first season, the 0800 number received 302 calls and there were 808 visits to the website.

“This indicates that the public is becoming more educated about beach water quality and that the Safeswim programme is providing a much needed service.”

Fifteen of the 364 beach water samples collected over the 2003 to 2004 summer exceeded the ‘alert’ level set by Ministry for the Environment and Ministry of Health guidelines. Eight of these coincided with rainfall.

The Works Committee agreed to continue the stream water quality monitoring programme on Great Barrier. It also resolved to begin water quality testing at a stream outside the built-up area on Great Barrier. This would provide baseline data to allow comparative analysis.

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