Keeping swimmers in the loop
Auckland swimmers will get realtime information on water quality at the city’s beaches, starting this summer.
On Thursday, Mayor Phil Goff announced that an upgrade to the council’s water quality monitoring system, Safeswim, will go live from November 1.
The upgraded programme would be a New Zealand first, giving Aucklanders real-time information on where and when it was safe to swim.
It was important to be transparent and honest with the public as water quality at Auckland beaches was ’’worse than we would like to believe,’’ Goff said.
‘‘People have a right to know, and [council] have an obligation not just to warn them about poor quality but get on and tackle the causes of it.’’
For example, there were 70 sites along the western isthmus area - from the CBD to Pt Chevalier and Te Atatu - where waste water was disgorged into streams and the coast between 25 and 60 times a year at each site, Goff said.
‘‘That is a huge problem. It’s a not a new problem, but time we dealt with it.’’
While the current water monitoring system was compliant with New Zealand national standards set in 2003, these were not ‘‘fit for purpose’’, Goff said.
Currently the public could access information about the quality of water at a beach but by the time they were reading it the information was already out of date, he said.
‘‘The new system is set to be 20 times more accurate than we have been operating.’’
Safeswim covers 83 beaches in the greater Auckland region, with 69 monitored regularly.
A real-time alert would inform the public of ‘‘unpredictable risk events’’ as soon as they were detected, such as sewage overflows or shark sightings.
Safeswim would also measure wave and wind conditions, tides, rips and the presence of jellyfish.
The root problem - wastewater and stormwater overflow - was not new but Aucklanders needed to take responsibility for it now, Goff said.
The Safeswim upgrade was part of a larger plan by the council and Watercare to clean up Auckland’s beaches, Goff said.
‘‘If you’re talking about ‘100 per cent pure New Zealand’ at some stage you have to either change the branding, or start walking the talk’’.
Safeswim’s new system is set to be 20 times more accurate than it is currently.