We are lucky enough to have some wonderful spots in Southland to swim and gather shellfish. But we all need to be aware of the bacteria which affect water quality and can make us sick.
Southlanders have helped to identify popular recreational spots that Environment Southland monitors for the indicators of harmful bacteria. Our monitoring sites are located at:
- 13 beaches
- 7 rivers
- 2 lakes
- 8 shellfish gathering sites
To find out if the water at swimming spots could make you sick, we test water for ‘indicator’ bacteria. Although they may not make you sick themselves, these bacteria tend to indicate the presence of other disease-causing pathogens (such as viruses and protozoa).
We don’t test for the pathogens themselves as this is expensive and generally takes a lot longer. The bacteria we are looking out for in freshwater are E. coli and faecal coliforms. At marine sites we are looking out for enterococci. You can find more on the harmful bacteria we test for here.
Environment Southland uses two ways of assessing the water quality at popular swimming sites. These are:
- Weekly monitoring of water quality over summer (the latest results are shown in our online map);
- Incorporating long-term water data and other risks to give an overall Suitability for Recreation Grading.
During summer months (December through to the end of March) we update our results from monitoring at swimming spots every week. Use our map to find out the latest water quality results before you go swimming. Our SMART tips list all the things you need to think about when choosing a spot to swim.
- Lake Manapouri at Frazers Beach
- Lake Te Anau at Boat Harbour Beach
- Awarua Bay at Tiwai pumphouse
- Colac Bay at Colac Bay Road
- Halfmoon Bay at Bathing Beach
- Halfmoon Bay at Elgin Terrace
- Kawakaputa Bay at Wakapatu Road
- Monkey Island at Frentz Road
- Oreti Beach at Dunns Road
- Porpoise Bay at camping ground
- Riverton Rocks at Mitchells Bay North
*These sites all fall into the category of "Very good" or "good" according to Suitability for Recreation Grading.
Shellfish gathering sites
We monitor the water quality at eight shellfish gathering sites around the region monthly throughout the whole year. In general we’ve found that shellfish gathering sites located near river mouths often have increased bacterial contamination. We recommend not gathering shellfish for at least five days after heavy rainfall. The bacteria we are looking out for at shellfish gathering sites are faecal coliforms.
Shellfish gathering site results are based on the previous year’s monthly water samples, in accordance with the national guidelines for shellfish gathering, and can be seen on our map here. Our SMART tips list all the things you need to think about when planning to be in the water.
Our monitoring shows that the site/s that pass national guidelines for shellfish gathering are:
- Riverton Rocks at Mitchells Bay
The harmful bacteria we test for
Testing is carried out so we can measure bacteria against National guidelines. Our water quality testing only covers these bacteria, not metals, other toxicants or viruses.
Toxic algae Please see our list of frequently asked questions here.
this video, Dr Wood from Cawthron Institute talks about toxic algae in New Zealand rivers and
what we need to look out for to keep ourselves safe.Photo credit: Cawthron Institute
Photo credit: Horizons Regional Council
conducts monthly monitoring for toxic algae blooms across the region. You can see our alerts for toxic algae here
- For further information on health risks: Public Health South, Medical Officer of Health, (03) 211 0900
- For further information on environmental monitoring: Environment Southland 0800 76 88 45
For more information
Recreational Waters of Southland
This report summarises the results of Environment Southland's 2012/13 microbial monitoring programme, which monitors the public health risk from contact recreation at 11 marine beaches, 13 rivers and lakes, and 8 shellfish gathering sites in the region. Download the report Recreational Waters of Southland
Recreational Bathing Survey 2015
This report includes the findings from a survey conducted across Southland over the summer of 2015. The survey's aim was to find where people undertake recreational activities, what activities are being carried out, what kai is being collected, what problems are being experienced, and whether the recreational bathing programme is delivering to the public needs. Download the Recreational Bathing Survey 2015
Microbiological water quality guidelines for marine and freshwater recreational areasView the guidelines on the Ministry for the Environment website