30 October 2023

Surf's up! Report assesses water quality at NSW swimming spots

| Claire Sams
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Malua Bay Beach was among those to have its rating upgraded in the latest report.

Malua Bay Beach had its rating upgraded in the latest report. Photo: Supplied.

As you start thinking about hitting the water for a quick dip to cool off, a report on water quality might give you some new locations to check out.

The State of the beaches 2022-23 report was released in October and found 73 per cent of the 225 monitored sites across the state were rated as ‘Very Good’ or ‘Good’.

This was a slight drop from the 80 per cent recorded in the 2021-2022 report, which monitored 214 sites.

The report, published by the NSW Department of Planning and Environment, monitors beaches, lakes, freshwater swimming sites, ocean baths and other swimming locations across the state under the Beachwatch and Beachwatch Partnership programs.

Based on their water quality, the locations are then graded as ‘Very Good’, ‘Good’, ‘Fair’, ‘Poor’ or ‘Very Poor’.

NSW Minister for the Environment Penny Sharpe said she was pleased with the condition of many of the state’s beaches.

“As we head into swim season it is great news that 96 per cent of our monitored beaches have excellent water quality,” she said.

“Rainfall is the main reason water quality changes, and we had a lot of it in 2022.

“As a result, many inland and freshwater swimming sites did not perform as well as our ocean beaches.”

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The 2022-23 regional report for the South Coast region found 95 per cent of swimming sites in the Eurobodalla Shire Council and Shoalhaven City Council areas had Very Good or Good water quality.

In Eurobodalla Shire, 10 of 11 monitored sites were marked as Very Good or Good, while the Shoalhaven City area saw all 10 of its swimming sites ranked as Very Good.

Member for Bega Doctor Michael Holland said 21 swim sites were being monitored across the South Coast region.

“It is recommended that swimming should be avoided during and for up to three days following rainfall or if there are signs of stormwater pollution such as discoloured water or floating debris,” he said.

“Summer is coming and it is a good time to get out and enjoy our beautiful beaches.”

Cookies Beach, Malua Bay Beach, South Broulee (Bengello) Beach and Brou Beach were named as the Eurobodalla Shire beaches with the best water quality.

Malua Bay Beach on the South Coast also had its rating lifted to Very Good.

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It was bad news for one of the South Coast’s beaches, however.

Surf Beach kept its Poor rating from the last report and was one of five NSW beaches to be given a Poor or Very Poor rating.

The ocean beach was assessed between November 2019 and March 2023.

“The Beach Suitability Grade of Poor indicates microbial water quality is susceptible to faecal pollution, particularly after rainfall and occasionally during dry weather conditions, with potential faecal contamination from stormwater,” according to the report.

“Enterococci levels increased with increasing rainfall, often exceeding the safe swimming limit after little or no rain, and regularly after 10 mm or more.”

The full report and the regional reports are available for download online through the NSW Department of Planning and Environment’s website.

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