What is Beachwatch?
Recreational water quality monitoring is an important activity, which provides data for the assessment of the potential health risks to swimmers, surfers and other users of waterways. Treated wastewater and runoff from urban, agricultural and industrial areas can contaminate beaches and estuaries, particularly after rainfall. To view the latest water quality results for local beaches and other monitored beaches in New South Wales (NSW) visit Beachwatch Reporting - Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH).
In May 2009 new guidelines for monitoring and reporting recreational water quality were adopted for use in NSW: the National Health and Medical Research Council’s Guidelines for Managing Risks in Recreational Water (NHMRC 2008).
The guidelines focus on the assessment and management of hazards to minimise health risks, and have been adopted in all Australian States that currently routinely monitor recreational water quality.
‘Beachwatch’ is aa Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) initiative to monitor popular swimming locations for compliance with the guidelines. In 2009 Byron Shire Council worked with OEH to commence a Beachwatch program for the Shire by monitoring ten popular swimming locations between November 2009 and June 2010.
In December 2010 Council resolved to allocate funding to continue the Beachwatch program for the 2010/2011 swimming season. An additional popular swimming location, Broken Head, was also added to the program.
Byron Shire’s sub-tropical climate ensures an extended swimming season and high and intense rainfall. These factors combined with extremely high usage of beaches and waterways makes Beachwatch a worthwhile and beneficial program.
Current Beachwatch sample sites in the Byron Shire are outlined below.
- The Strand
- Torakina Beach
- Simpson's Creek
- South Beach (Brunswick Heads)
- Belongil Beach
- Main Beach (Byron Bay)
- Clarkes Beach
- Watego's Beach
- Tallow Beach (Byron Bay)
- Tallow Beach (Suffolk Park)
- Broken Head
For a map indicating the location of sample sites see Byron Shire water sampling sites 296.71 KB.
The Simpson’s Creek site was the only site in the Shire graded as very poor by OEH for the 2009/2010 monitoring period. Enterococci (bacteria indicator) levels were considered to be safe for swimming for just over 45% of the time. Grading for the site may improve once more data becomes available and the enterococci distribution is better defined. Treated discharge from the Brunswick Heads sewage treatment plant to Simpson’s Creek ceased in late 2010 and it is expected that water quality in the creek will improve as a result. In the interim, Council recommends that people should not swim in Simpson’s Creek until at least three days after heavy rain (i.e. more than 25 mm in 24 hours) has ceased. Council has installed advisory signage at appropriate locations adjacent to Simpson’s Creek.
Weekly site ratings and further information
Weekly water quality site ratings for the Byron Shire are available during the swimming season at Byron Shire Council weekly star ratings.
Further information relating to Beachwatch, including annual State of the Beaches Reports, may be accessed at Beachwatch Bulletin.
For further information regarding Council’s program, please contact Council’s Environmental Services section on 02 6626 7054 or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.