Recreational water

The water quality at coastal, river and lake recreation sites and shellfish beds in the region are surveyed and monitored by Waikato Regional Council.

The waters are tested for bacteria and toxin forming algae species.  This includes benthic cyanobacteria (Phormidium) in rivers and streams.  If a recreational water site is found to be significantly contaminated, with risk to public health, Population Health informs the public by issuing a health warning (external link) and the local council erects warning signs.

If you swim in or drink contaminated water, you risk getting sick.

Water can be contaminated with toxic algae (blue-green algae/cyanobacteria) or animal faeces from rural or urban run-off.

As a public health precaution, it is routinely recommended that people avoid swimming in rivers, streams and harbour areas for 48 hours after heavy rainfall events

What to look for

  • If you notice the water in your local lake, river or beach is murky or has a musty smell, go somewhere else
  • If you notice the river bed or rocks covered in algae and looks like black/brown leathery mats, go somewhere else
  • Avoid swimming for up to 48 hours (two days) or until the water looks clear after heavy or prolonged rain.

Health risks

Toxic algae

Toxic algae, also known as blue-green algae and cyanobacteria, are capable of producing toxins that are harmful to humans and animals, whether swallowed or exposed to skin during swimming, kayaking or water-skiing.

Symptoms include fever, headaches, dizziness, skin rashes, stomach cramps and aggravated hay fever and asthma and damage to the nervous system.

Algal blooms in the Waikato region. (external link)

Sewer overflows

In built-up areas there is a possibility of sewage discharge from the reticulated sewage system.  This can lead to contaminated water.  Should this occur, the local authority would advise the public that an unplanned sewer overflow has occurred and remedy the affected area.

For more information about sewer overflows, contact your local council (external link) .

Other contaminants

Water contaminated with animal and human faeces can lead to gastrointestinal illnesses (tummy bugs) such as:

People can also experience cold and flu-like symptoms and skin, eye and ear infections.

Swimming, spa and geothermal pools

Contact (07) 838 2569 if you have a complaint or enquiry regarding the hygiene of a local swimming, spa or geothermal pool, or if you suspect you obtained an infection/illness from using a public pool.

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