Northland Regional Council says it will once again use the online Safeswim platform to deliver water quality results at popular beach and freshwater swim spots over summer.
Councillor Amy Macdonald, who chairs the council’s Natural Resources Working Party, says the council joined Safeswim last year in a move from a previous regime that had seen weekly water quality samples collected at popular swim sites over summer.
Safeswim is a predictive modelling system that establishes a relationship between historical water quality results with environmental drivers (rainfall) to provide ‘real-time and near-future swimability predictions’.
Councillor Macdonald says the information on 50 coastal and 20 freshwater sites popular with swimmers and other recreational water users over the warmer months is available year-round via the ‘Safeswim’ website www.safeswim.org.nz
Results will also be posted on the ‘Can I Swim Here?’ section on the national environmental reporting website LAWA – www.lawa.org.nz
“Among a host of potential benefits of Safeswim are improved knowledge of water quality at swimming sites, improving public understanding of potential health risks and providing real-time/forecasted water quality year-round,” said Cr Macdonald.
“Safeswim also provides information on tides, physical hazards and lifeguard patrols, where appropriate, providing a ‘one-stop shop’ for users to make informed decisions on where to swim before heading off.”
She said the system uses a series of pins/droplets to illustrate the advisability of swimming and other contact with water. While the regional council does not have the authority to close beaches or freshwater sites to swimmers, the information is provided for users to make informed decisions.
Water quality predicted to meet national guidelines is marked with a green water droplet indicating a low risk of illness from swimming.
When water quality is predicted to exceed national guidelines, Safeswim will display a red water droplet indicating a high risk of illness from swimming.
“Essentially it means that levels of bacteria indicate that more than 1 in 50 people are likely to become ill after putting their head underwater.”
Cr Macdonald says for most healthy people water that meets national guidelines will pose a minimal level of risk.
“However, water below the guideline values may pose a potential health risk to high-risk user groups such as the very young, the elderly and those with impaired immune systems,” she said.
Finally, a black pin on Safeswim indicates that the swimspot has been affected by a confirmed wastewater overflow and authorities ‘strongly advise’ against swimming as the risk is higher than normal.