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Coastal water quality generally good, caution urged


Waikato Regional Council’s coastal scientists say water quality at the beaches it monitors is generally good for swimming, but caution is urged following heavy rain.

The council is in the third year of its reactivated water quality monitoring programme at seven east coast and two west coast beaches, testing to see whether faecal bacteria levels are okay for contact recreation, such as swimming and surfing.

The testing is part of a council drive to gain better information about what’s happening in the region’s coastal waters and to provide a community service.

The testing is carried out between November and March, with the latest results available to beach users at www.waikatoregion.govt.nz/coastalresults.

Results last summer were generally positive but there were some issues across the region following rainfall. On the occasions there were issues, follow-up sampling showed faecal bacteria levels back within an acceptable range.
The east coast beaches monitored are Whitianga, Hot Water Beach, Tairua, Pauanui, Whangamatā and Whiritoa, and Sunset Beach and Ngarunui on the west coast.

“The results let swimmers and surfers know the quality of the water at their favourite beach,” said coastal water quality scientist, Pete Wilson.

“While water quality at Waikato beaches is generally good and meeting bathing beach guidelines, but it’s clear caution should be taken following heavy rain. That’s because heavy rain flushes contaminants from urban and rural land into waterways, which then make their way to the coast.”

These contaminants may be present in the water for up to 48 hours after heavy or prolonged rainfall, he said.

“The number of faecal bacteria present in the water indicate the likelihood of contracting a disease from many possible pathogens in the water such as bacteria or viruses.

“On our website, results from the monitoring programme are compared to national guidelines to determine the suitability for recreational use.”

If any issues of concern are identified, the regional council works with district councils and the Waikato District Health Board to assess results that may have public health implications and to provide the public with the best quality information.

“Our monitoring programme, while it isn’t picking up persistent issues, will help provide assurance to the public going forward and help us track any trends or emerging issues,” said Dr Wilson.

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