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Canterbury water testing results now on ECan web

South and Mid Canterbury water testing results now on ECan web

To Sara Fraser, getting to drive round South Canterbury’s favourite swimming spots every week for most of the summer is a dream job.

The 20-year-old Otago University chemistry student is working for Environment Canterbury collecting water samples to be tested to ensure these places are safe for swimming. The area she covers spans from the Ashburton lakes through to the Mackenzie lakes, and south to the Waitaki River

“The best part is driving around and seeing these amazing spots. It’s a fun job and it’s good for my studies, especially because I got to see the lab and may be able to apply the work to what I learn next year, and in the future,” she says.

Three weeks into the job, the Orari Gorge rates as her favourite site, and she reports that the water quality there is good.

A handful of swimming spots in South Canterbury are recording poor water quality and they are the Waihao River at the Black Hole and Bradshaws pools, Lake Benmore at Pumpkin Bay, Lake Aviemore at Loch Laird and Lake Opuha at Ewarts Corner boat ramp.

The best places for water quality in the south are at the dam boat ramp of South Canterbury’s newest lake, Opuha, near Fairlie, Lake Benmore at Ohau C, and the Lake Ruataniwha camping grounds beach.

At each site, Sara takes a sample where the water is a metre high, and the sample is taken from half a metre deep, or as near enough to this as possible. The samples are then sent to the Christchurch ECan lab for testing and the results sent back to Sara, who gets the information to the relevant district council and checks that the ECan website is updated.

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She says other areas faring well on the water quality stakes to date are Lake Middleton, near Lake Ohau and lakes Benmore, Ruataniwha and Aviemore. The region’s most famous swimming spot, Caroline Bay, is also returning good water quality results.

Sara says things such as rainfall can affect quality as there is more run-off into the rivers and lakes.

For the most up-to-date information, check the ECan website, www.ecan.govt.nz/swimming or look at Eye on the Environment bottom right hand side and click open Swimming Water Quality. You then drill down into the individual sites to see how the season is progressing.

Here is the page which shows the water quality so far for Caroline Bay:



Every summer, Environment Canterbury monitors more than 90 coastal and freshwater swimming sites. Water samples are collected weekly by students based in Christchurch and Timaru (50-plus sites), volunteers (about 30 sites), and in Kaikoura, ECan staffer Peter Adams. ECan analyses the samples with results on its website about 48 hours after the sample is taken.

ECan water portfolio chairman Cr Mark Oldfield says the ECan water testing is a good way for people to make the connection between people's activities, the environment and resultant water quality changes. "Lots of things can affect water quality, including subdivision, or hillside clearing with resultant run-off muddying nearby water, as well as birds living along rivers, which people need to be aware of. Generally we have a good range of swimming sites in Canterbury but people may not be aware of additional risks so that is where these water quality sites are extremely helpful and ensure the community is informed and can protect their health."


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