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Summer testing underway


Monday, December 09, 2013

Summer testing underway

As the weather heats up, Horizons Regional Council is heading out to test water quality at popular swimming spots around the Region as part of its summer monitoring programme.

Horizons water quality spokesperson Barry Gilliland says the council takes weekly samples at 16 swimming and recreation sites over the summer months and grades each site green, amber or red depending on E. Coli levels.

A further 29 areas have a permanent grading system in place and Horizons also looks for blue-green algal slimes which can pose a risk to people and animals. 

Results from the council’s most recent testing on December 4 are largely positive, with 13 out of 16 sites rated green or safe for swimming. The remaining three sites: Duddings Lake, Lake Wiritoa and Wairarawa Stream are graded amber or satisfactory for swimming.

Test results are displayed on the Safe Swim Spots section of Horizons’ website. However, Mr Gilliland says nothing beats taking a look and following a few rules of thumb. 

“We’ve been collecting data as part of our swimming spots monitoring programme since 2004 and while these gradings provide a general indication of water health there are a few rules of thumb people should follow before they hop in.

“Coastal beaches and rivers close to the ranges such as the Upper Whanganui River, Pohangina River, Kahuterawa Stream, Tokomaru River and Ohau River are generally the best option for safe swimming. Bigger rivers take longer to recover after periods of heavy rainfall but are still ok for swimming most of the time.

“If the water looks clean and clear and it’s a sunny day you should be good to go. If it’s been raining, we advise waiting three rain-free days before swimming at river swimming spots.

“If musty smelling, black slimy mat-like growths are observed on river bed stones during low flows it’s safest for you and your dog to avoid using the river. This is just something for swimmers to be aware of if it hasn’t rained for a few weeks and again it’s a matter of looking to see whether the water is clear and making a sensible decision,” he says.

Horizons’ chief executive Michael McCartney says he hopes people get out there this summer and enjoy what the Region has to offer.

‘’It’s important that the public understand their rivers and beaches. Our Region’s home to plenty of great swimming spots, so when the conditions are right people should go for it. Equally, it’s important for the community to know when or where it’s not wise to use a river.

"It’s important to remain mindful of the risks the natural environment presents and watch out for sunken logs, rocks and river bank trees that could present a hazard," he says.

Weekly swim spot testing is carried out from November through to April. More information and gradings is available online via Horizons’ website www.horizons.govt.nz


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