With NIWA confirming El Niño conditions for this summer, Aucklanders will be heading to the region’s beaches to take advantage of the drier, but not-too-hot, weather to come.
Auckland Council’s water quality monitoring programme, Safeswim, begins for the season from now until 31 March 2016 at 72 of Auckland’s most popular beaches, including Waiheke Island and Great Barrier Island, and the three new Taumanu foreshore beaches in Onehunga.
Monitoring is not undertaken at beaches with consistently good water quality.
Beachgoers will soon start to see helicopters dipping testing equipment into the sea each week across summer.
“For many Aucklanders, the sight of our helicopters heralds the beginning of the swimming season,” says Marcus Herrmann, Manager Regional Environmental Control.
Weekly testing of water quality
“Council environmental health experts test the sea water weekly to measure levels of bacteria that indicate the potential for water-based pathogens to cause harm. We publish those findings on the council website for the public to reference.”
Mr Herrmann says Auckland Council is committed to maintaining safe standards around Auckland’s popular recreational beaches.
“Most of the time, our beaches are clean and safe for swimming. But, occasionally, wastewater and stormwater overflows, mainly caused by heavy rain, can temporarily cause higher levels of bacteria.
"We recommend people do not swim for 48 hours after rain events. People are also recommended to stay away from outfalls and stream mouths,” he says.
Auckland beaches consistently high scoring
Chair of Auckland Council’s Environment, Heritage and Climate Change Committee, Cr Wayne Walker, says the level of cleanliness of Auckland beach water has been benchmarked against other large international cities and is consistently high scoring.
“It is important that we monitor a large number of beaches, because beaches are an integral part of our Auckland lifestyle, especially over summer. People want to know that it is safe to swim.
"Beach-goers should look out for signs warning about pollution, especially in the small number of locations with known problems, such as Downtown Auckland and some of the west coast lagoons,” he says.
Before taking the plunge, you can check out the results at your chosen beach by calling 0800 SAFESWIM (0800 723 379) or visiting aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/safeswim.