Swimmers should check water first

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JACK.CONROY@nullcluthaleader.co.nz

Care for a swim?

Otago Regional Council (ORC) staff will be out around the region sampling and testing water quality for the summer recreation season in a few weeks’ time.

Prospective swimmers in Otago are encouraged to check the ‘‘Can I Swim Here?’’ section of the LAWA (Land Air Water Aotearoa) website to see the latest weekly water quality results from December 1 until March 31.

At present, Lake Waihola has a long-term rating of “fair”.

This means the water is 95% safe with a 1%-5% chance of E. coli presence.

The rating deems it generally safe for swimming, while those with compromised immune systems may need to take extra caution.

Lake Waihola Holiday Park owner Peter Michelle said the lake was a big draw for tourists and residents at his camping ground. “Lots of people go down to the lake,” Mr Michelle said.

“Tourists come from overseas and wake up in the morning and say how beautiful it is waking up next to a lake.

“It’s only the mud that b… it up, makes it look rough.”

ORC strategy, policy and science general manager Gwyneth Elsum said water quality was prone to change, so it was important to confirm water was safe before swimming.

“Even the sites that typically have excellent water quality can see bacteria spike as a result of heavy rainfall washing contaminants from urban and rural land into waterways,” Ms Elsum said.

“That’s why we recommend people avoid swimming for two to three days after heavy rainfall and use the ‘Can I Swim Here?’ data to help decide if they want to swim at a particular site.”

This year, there will be new signs at popular sites directing swimmers to the information online, at www.lawa.org.nz/ swim.