Swimming water quality and health warnings
Bathing Water Quality
The main swimming spot in Stratford that is monitored is the Patea River in King Edward Park, close to the Scout Den.
Can I swim here?
Harmful bacteria can sometimes be detected in the Pātea River, affecting recreational swimming holes running through King Edward Park.
When this happens, water contact may be harmful to humans and animals. Signage advising people of the risk will be erected at the river - but it's important to always check whether you can swim before you take a dip.
Visit the Taranaki Regional Council (TRC) website if you're thinking about swimming in the Pātea River to see the most up to date water quality testing and results.
Water quality at popular swimming spots
Popular swimming spots in each district are listed on each District Council website, along with each individual swimming spot’s current health status. Signs at each swimming spot also advise you if it is currently safe to swim.
The health status is determined by the District Councils according to national guidelines and the results of monitoring by the Taranaki Regional Council (TRC).
Every summer, the TRC monitors popular freshwater and coastal swimming spots for bacteria that indicate if there is faecal contamination. This data is fed directly to maps on its website.
National guidelines for microbiological water quality categorise recreational bathing sites into a three different 'modes' (green, amber, red) according to the results of faecal indicator bacteria counts. District Councils use TRC monitoring results and national health guidelines to inform the public on whether the water quality of a site is suitable for swimming and other water-based recreational activities.
Permanent health warnings
Permanent signs warn of the increased health risk at the mouth of the Te Henui Stream, the Waiwhakaiho River above the Te Rewa Rewa bridge and at the Waimoku Stream mouth in Oakura. Investigations have shown that the large numbers of birds at these sites are the major source of contamination.
Vandalised or outdated signs
Contact us if you see a sign that’s been damaged or is out of date.
Don’t swim after rain
Water quality in our rivers and at our beaches is generally pretty good over summer, except in poor weather conditions. Heavy rain flushes contaminants from urban and rural land into waterways and we strongly advise you not to swim for at least three days after heavy or prolonged rainfall – even if a site generally has good water quality.
Latest water quality monitoring results
General information about freshwater quality in Taranaki
The TRC has been closely monitoring water quality across Taranaki for two decades. Discussion and analysis of long-term trends can be found on its website here.
Report pollution immediately
To report a pollution incident within Taranaki, call the Taranaki Regional Council immediately. Call 0800 736 222 at any time, 24/7, including public holidays.
Dogs suddenly falling ill
If your dog suddenly falls ill after swimming or visiting a river, lake or the coast, take it to the vet and contact Taranaki Regional Council’s pollution hotline 0800 736 222 to advise them of your water quality concerns.
What illnesses can you contract from swimming in contaminated water?
- Respiratory illnesses, similar to flu-like symptoms
- Skin, eye and ear infections
- Abdominal pain, cramps, and nausea
- Irritation of the skin, eyes, nose, and mouth, which may appear as an itch, redness or dermatitis.
- Toxins can also affect the liver and the nervous system. People at greatest risk of a reaction are children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those with pre-existing medical conditions.
Who should I call if I think I have experienced a reaction?
See your GP or ring Healthline on 0800 611 116. Tell them you may have been exposed to contaminated water. Your doctor has been asked to notify the Medical Officer of Health of any people with possible reactions.
Is it safe to swim in or drink contaminated water?
No. You should avoid any skin contact with the water and avoid swallowing the water.
Can I eat shellfish from contaminated water?
No. Eating shellfish from affected areas should be avoided. To find out more about shellfish safety visit NZ Food Safety Authority.
What are the health risks of contaminated recreational water?
There are a number of disease-causing bugs (called pathogens) that can survive in the sea, lakes and rivers for some time. The bugs mainly get into the water through human and animal faeces. When we come into contact with water that has been contaminated we expose ourselves to the bugs and risk getting sick.
What are Pathogens?
Pathogens cause disease in humans and animals. There are many different kinds of pathogens. Some of the more widely known are Campylobacter, Salmonella, Giardia, Cryptosporidium and viruses that cause diarrhoea and flu-like symptoms. The pathogens are present in faeces and may enter our waterways through untreated sewage discharges, leaky sewerage pipes, septic tanks, stormwater, rural run-off and from birds.
Even when beaches, lakes and rivers meet health guidelines, there is still a small health risk when you swim at that spot. It is not possible to say there is zero risk to public health, especially where there are known sources of human and animal faeces near the water.
What are Cyanobacteria?
Cyanobacteria are commonly known as blue-green algae. When algae multiply rapidly we get a “algal bloom”, which occur naturally. Activities, such as taking water from rivers or adding nutrients to waterways, can make things worse.
Cyanobacteria can produce toxins, known as cyanotoxins. The toxins can be a threat to people and animals if present in drinking water, or if people and animals come into contact with the water.
Will wearing a wetsuit protect me?
No, wearing a wetsuit or a rash vest will not protect you and could make any reaction worse. The cyanobacteria may accumulate in the collar and cuff areas and rub against your skin. This may cause a strong skin reaction in these areas.
Is it safe to boat or canoe in contaminated water?
We recommend you do not use sites that have health warning for boating or canoeing. Recreational water safety is a joint initiative between the Taranaki Regional Council, the New Plymouth District Council, the South Taranaki District Council and the Stratford District Council.