Safe swimming over the summer months (December to March)

Greater Wellington Regional Council along with local councils monitor the water quality in and around popular swimming sites (coastal, river and lake), to see that they are safe from bugs.

To see what the water is like at these areas go to the Greater Wellington Regional Council ‘Is it Safe to Swim?’ webpage. There is an interactive map to let you know about any current alerts and the overall water quality expected at each site. Water quality can be affected by heavy or prolonged rainfall and it is recommended to wait 48 hours after rain before swimming. The webpage also contains useful information on toxic algae and toxic shellfish poisoning.

Also remember that eating shellfish collected near towns or cities will always carry a risk of making you sick. The risk is much higher for several days after wet weather. So avoid collecting shellfish until the water runs clear for several days. Well cooked shellfish are safer, as cooking kills most bugs.

If you notice a problem with water quality, report it to the Regional Council on 0800 496 734. This will help support all of the work that is happening to improve the water quality in the Wellington region.

Preventing illness from recreational water use

Public health staff work with councils to decide when the regular water quality monitoring or an event, such as an unplanned sewage discharge, could be a health risk for people swimming or collecting food nearby. Communication of the risk to the public will occur via a number of different channels such as signage at the site, direct contact of those most likely to be affected, use of social media, webpages and warnings in radio/newspapers.

Public health staff also have an oversight role of the actions taken by councils to assess that adequate measures are taken to manage any risk to the health of the community. Illness that could be due to recreational water contact is monitored by public health units.

Swimming and spa pools

Recreational water quality also covers use of public swimming and spa pools. To ensure swimmers are not exposed to infection, pool water needs to be managed carefully. If you have a concern or enquiry regarding the hygiene of a public swimming or spa pool, contact your local council.

There are some resources on safe swimming and public or household swimming pools below.

Cryptosporidium

Cryptosporidiosis is caused by Cryptosporidium parvum which lives in the intestines of people, birds and animals. It produces cysts (eggs) that can survive in the environment for a long time. When a person, bird or animal is infected they pass out the cysts (eggs) in their faeces (poo).

Cryptosporidium is most often spread by hands contaminated with faeces during toilet use or nappy changing. From hands it can spread to surfaces, toys, food and water. It also spreads in shared water such as swimming pools. When the cysts are swallowed the person then becomes infected.

Symptoms include large amounts of watery diarrhoea and stomach cramps. Lack of appetite, weight loss, fever, nausea and vomiting sometimes occur. People with weak immune systems, particularly those with HIV, can have severe and life threatening illness.

Once the symptoms have stopped, people are still infectious especially over the first 2 weeks. It is important to be very careful with hand washing and drying and not to swim in public pools for 2 weeks after diarrhoea stops. The cryptosporidium bug can be very difficult to treat in swimming pools and swimming in the pool while still infectious can spread the infection to other swimmers.

See the 'safe swimming' resource below for further information.

See Illness and disease | Cryptosporidium

See Early childhood centres | Fact sheets

Further information

To find out about the quality of our regions recreational water visit Greater Wellington Regional Council

Last updated 5 July 2017.