Taranaki people can be confident about water quality at most popular swimming spots in the region, despite many being assigned poor grades in a newly released national report, says the Taranaki Regional Council.
The Ministry for the Environment grades are based mainly on the hypothetical risks arising from how the surrounding land is used, rather than actual monitoring results, says the Council’s Director-Environment Quality, Gary Bedford. In other words, it is essentially a desktop exercise that should in no case be used where an actual, properly conducted measurement programme exists, such as in Taranaki.
Mr Bedford says the Council’s own monitoring involves regular analysis of water samples over the summer season. Actual results show that:
For the past two summers, water quality at popular freshwater bathing spots has been the best in a decade.
At the 16 freshwater bathing sites monitored during summer 2011-2012, only 22 of 207 samples exceeded the national "action" guideline for bathing water bacterial contamination - the lowest level of non-compliance for 11 years.
Of the 22 samples that exceeded the guideline, 19 were from just three sites - Lake Rotomanu, Waiwhakaiho River near Lake Rotomanu, and Te Henui Stream mouth - where wildfowl are the major source of contamination.
Coastal bathing monitoring results are consistently better than the national average. In 2011-2012, more than 94% of samples were within national guidelines for bacteria levels.
Mr Bedford says the fact that dairying is the main activity in Taranaki ring-plain river catchments means that the region will never be given good grades under the Ministry’s system, regardless of the actual measured water quality results.
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