Where to swim this summer
by Mike Isle
The majority of Selwyn’s popular swimming holes are safe. However, there are two exceptions, according to Land, Air, Water Aotearoa (LAWA) a collaborative body which, among other things, monitors water quality for regional councils.
LAWA samples popular swimming spots weekly during the summer to determine the presence of such nasties as toxic algae, faecal matter and bacteria risk.
They publish their findings on the LAWA website and there is also reference to it on the local regional council’s Environment Canterbury website. Overall, LAWA monitors 700 sites throughout New Zealand.
In Selwyn, between the Waimakariri and Rakaia rivers LAWA monitors eight sites, six of which — including five on the Selwyn River — currently get a clean bill of health and are safe to swim in.
However two sites, Lakeside Domain at Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere and Waimakariri River at Thompsons Road, are deemed at present to be unsuitable for swimming.
Although the majority of Selwyn’s swimming holes are safe and suitable for swimming LAWA still encourages caution when using them. They recommend regularly checking their website for the current water quality of favourite swimming holes; avoiding swimming near potential contamination sources such as flocks of birds and waste water and storm water outlets; avoiding swimming for at least two days after prolonged rain; and keeping a constant lookout for potential hazards such as strong currents, submerged objects and steep drop-offs.
They even have advice for dog-owners. Toxic algae can be fatal for dogs. LAWA recommends knowing what toxic algae looks like and then avoiding it. They also recommend bringing water from home and discouraging dogs from drinking from the river or lake.
However, as the current sampling indicates, most sampled sites in Selwyn are currently safe and suitable for swimming. The six sampled safe sites are: Rakaia River at the Gorge; Whitecliffs Road, Selwyn River; Glen tunnel, Selwyn River; Chamberlains Ford, Selwyn River; Coes Ford, Selwyn River; and Upper Huts, Selwyn River.
For the latest LAWA updates on where it is safe to swim, visit the LAWA website www.lawa.org.nz or Environment Canterbury www.ecan.govt.nz.