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Published: 2004-12-24 00:00:00

If we ever get a summer, the Waikato’s beaches are looking pretty good for swimming in clean water.

Environment Waikato’s regularly monitors the quality of water around our coasts, and this year is surveying west coast beaches. Water scientist Bill Vant says coastal water for contact recreation such as swimming is usually satisfactory or better around the coast.

“Often, it is excellent but occasionally, some beaches have high bacteria levels. Generally, our coastal waters receive fewer bacterial contaminants than our rivers and lakes. Also, on the coast any contaminants are often quickly diluted and dispersed by tidal flushing and waves. Contaminant levels in our coastal waters are often much lower than in our rivers, but after heavy rain, contaminant levels from runoff are likely to be higher.”

Water quality, especially on west coast beaches was generally excellent the summer before last, with east coast and Hauraki Gulf beaches not far behind.

Environment Waikato gives a ‘pass rate’ for water quality for swimming by measuring levels of the faecal bacteria, with a pass rate based on national guidelines.

Mr Vant said that when water quality was poor, swimming, surfing and water-skiing could be unsafe. ‘Bad bugs’ from human and animal faeces could cause illness in people. Monitoring coastal water quality identified beaches that may not be suitable for swimming. Environment Waikato’s website www.ew.govt.nz provides updated information on the state of water quality in rivers and at beaches.