Rain dirt­ies re­gion rivers

The Horowhenua Mail - - FRONT PAGE - MIRI SCHROETER

Wet weather was to blame for unswimmable wa­ter­ways around Manawatu¯ last sum­mer as al­most all rivers in the re­gion were deemed un­safe at some point.

Af­ter a damp spring, peo­ple will need to have a care­ful look at the weather be­fore swim­ming in rivers this sum­mer, too.

Hori­zons Re­gional Coun­cil mea­sured 80 swim spots in and around Manawatu¯ from Novem­ber 2016 to April 2017 to de­ter­mine their swimma­bil­ity, in­clud­ing beaches and lakes.

Sixty-three of 65 river spots tested were un­safe to en­ter at some point last sum­mer, the ex­cep­tions be­ing the Ran­gitı¯kei River and Pukeokahu.

Hori­zons uses a traf­fic-light sys­tem to high­light how safe a swim spot is. Green is good to go, am­ber means there are po­ten­tial health risks and red is un­safe. This can be found on its web­site over sum­mer.

The Manawatu¯ River near the gorge was safe for swim­ming about 30 per cent of the time, and an­other 30 per cent of the time swim­mers were warned it could be a health risk. The rest of the time it was con­sid­ered unswimmable.

Niwa prin­ci­pal scientist Chris Bran­dolino said there were no pre­dic­tions yet for how this sum­mer would be.

Hori­zons science and in­no­va­tion man­ager Abby Mathews said if it was an­other wet sum­mer peo­ple should wait to swim when it was clean and clear.

‘‘If it’s three days af­ter rain and the wa­ter is not dirty or fast­flow­ing, it should be safe to swim. Look for po­ten­tial haz­ards such as un­sta­ble cliffs and banks, sunken rocks and logs, and rips at beaches.’’

Peo­ple want­ing to cool off at Ash­hurst Do­main last sum­mer had more luck than at other sites as it was deemed safe 53 per cent of the time. Eleven per cent of the time it posed health risks and 37 per cent of the time it was un­safe.

Sev­enty-four of the 80 swim spots mon­i­tored posed a health risk at some point dur­ing the sum­mer.

Health risks could in­clude the pres­ence of fae­ces or­cyanobac­te­ria.

When en­ter­ing cyanobac­te­ria-con­tam­i­nated wa­ter, peo­ple are at risk of get­ting di­ar­rhoea, nau­sea or gas- troen­teri­tis, which can lead to liver dam­age or even death in some cases, a coun­cil re­port says.

The es­tu­ary at Aki­tio River is the worst spot to swim in as it was unswimmable 67 per cent of last sum­mer.

For peo­ple look­ing for a con­sis­tently safe swim spot, the beach sites are the most re­li­able, with Castle­cliff at Whanganui and Fox­ton Beach among the clean­est places to swim.

Hori­zons nat­u­ral re­sources and part­ner­ships man­ager Jon Roy­gard said last sum­mer was wet­ter than usual. More rain meant river beds were stirred up and more sed­i­ment ended up in wa­ter­ways, he said.

‘‘When the weather con­di­tions were suit­able for swim­ming, the ma­jor­ity of sites were suit­able for recre­ational use.’’

PHOTO: GRANT MATTHEW/STUFF

Nearly all rivers mon­i­tored by Hori­zons Re­gional Coun­cil were deemed un­safe at some point last sum­mer.

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