Environment Southland monitors popular sites for swimming or gathering shellfish.
Where to swim and collect shellfish
Download our factsheet Where to swim and collect shellfish here.
SMART tips stand for Site- check our sites online for M- our monitoring results, consider A- additional factors that can affect water quality (like recent rainfall), think about other R- risks- such as submerged objects or strong currents, check for T- toxic algae which can make the water unsafe. See more information below:
Popular sites for swimming are listed on the LAWA (Land Air Water Aotearoa) website, and Environment Southland's online mapping service Beacon, which also includes popular shellfish gathering spots. Its here that you can see the results of our monitoring. Remember: It's important to also check for flood warnings at the spot you plan to visit using Environment Southland's water level map, which will tell you if there is a flood warning.
Swimming sites: Over summer (December throught to the end of March) we test these swimming sites weekly for harmful bacteria. We use a traffic light system show if a site is OK for swimming. If the spot on the map is green, the risk of getting sick is very low, so it's OK to swim once you have checked the additional factors and risks. If it's orange or red the risk is higher, and you need to stay out of the water at this site. The Beacon map for swimming displays the last four sample results for each so you can get a good idea of the recent history of water quality there.
Shellfish sites: For shellfish, we test for harmful bacteria in the water every month throughout the year at known collection sites. We use a pass/fail overall grade determine if a site is OK to gather shellfish. If the spot on the map is green, it's OK to gather shellfish once you have checked the additional factors and risks. If it's red, it's not safe to gather shellfish.
Because our samples are taken weekly and water quality can change, you need to consider these additional factors before heading out to swim of gather shellfish:.
- Heavy rain can wash contaminants or runoff containing more bacteria into our waterways. We recommend no swimming or gathering shellfish for at least two days after heavy rainfall. See Environment Southland's rainfall info here.
- Avoid swimming near stormwater outlets.
When at the site, look around and weigh up any risks you can see before you swim or gather shellfish.
- Check for submerged objects, swift water or strong currents.
- If you can't see your toes when standing knee-deep in water, the water may be unsafe to swim in.
- If you see signs stock have been in the water or there are visible signs of contamination, stay out of the water.
Check your swimming spot for any excessive green/brown slime on rocks or in the water, or dark brown/black mats at the waters edge – it could be toxic. Stay out of the water and keep dogs away from the slime, and report the location to Environment Southland. Keep up to date with toxic algae alerts via our system on Beacon.
Swimmable lakes and rivers
Frequently asked questions:
What does "swimmable" mean?
What is E.coli and where does it come from? How can it affect me?
How did you get 60.2% swimmable?
What actions will need to happen to get to 65.7% swimmable?
Why did the Government release these targets?
What else do I need to consider before I choose a place to swim?
How does Environment Southland assess suitability of rivers and lakes for swimming and how is this different from "swimmability"?
What's the difference between grading and surveillance?