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Look Before You Leap and Enjoy our Waterways this Summer
9 November 2018

Swimming and collecting shellfish is a favourite pastime for many.  While it is safe to do so in many of our local estuaries, beaches, rivers and lakes, it’s important to know when it is not safe, how to recognise signs of water contamination, and where to find out about local warnings.  This will help minimise the risk of you and your family getting sick.

Throughout summer our regional and district/city councils keep a close eye on the water quality of our bathing spots.  The water at our main lakes and rivers is tested regularly for bacterial contamination from human or animal faeces, and for the bacteria which cause blue-green algae or algal blooms.  If a recreational water site is found to be significantly contaminated with risk to public health, Toi Te Ora Public Health (Toi Te Ora) informs the public by issuing a health warning and the local council erects warning signs.  You can find current local health warnings at

With many recreational water sites in our area, the testing points are limited.  Our local Medical Officer of Health says it’s important to check the water before you use it.  “The Bay of Plenty and Lakes region is a big place with lots of opportunities for using the water.  Look before you leap; if the water looks discoloured, smells unusual, or if there is scum or leathery mats of black or brown algae on the surface of lakes or on the beds of rivers, swim or play somewhere else and don’t eat shellfish from the area,” says Dr Jim Miller. 

“After rainfall, water is likely to be contaminated with animal faeces from rural and urban run-off.  As a precaution, avoid swimming in rivers, streams, lakes or estuaries for 48 hours after heavy or prolonged rainfall.  Dr Miller adds, “It is also best to avoid swimming and collecting shellfish near pipes or culverts which run down to a waterway where storm water is discharged, and near wharves and marinas.” 

Help keep your whānau free from tummy bugs, sore throats and skin infections this summer and look before you leap.

Information on health warnings can be found through these channels:

Last modified: 06 Mar 2018
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