Beachwatch Partnership Program State of the Beaches 2005-2006 Summary
Nine councils along the New South Wales coast participated in recreational water quality monitoring and reporting programs during the 2005-2006 summer swimming season in partnership with the Department of Environment and Conservation's (DEC's) Beachwatch Program. The councils were:
- Ballina Shire Council
- Clarence Valley Council
- Kempsey Shire Council
- Port Stephens Council
- Newcastle City Council
- Wyong Shire Council
- Gosford City Council
- Eurobodalla Shire Council
- Bega Valley Shire Council.
Each council fully funded its own program. The size of the programs ranged from four to 29 sites, and included ocean beaches, freshwater lakes, tidal pools, bays, rivers, lagoons, and estuarine sites.
This report provides an outline of each council's monitoring and reporting activities, findings from the councils’ programs and quality assurance information.
Beachwatch Partnership Pilot Program
The Beachwatch Partnership Pilot Program (BPPP) ran between 2002 and 2004 and was funded as part of the New South Wales Government's $11.7-million Coastal Protection Package. The aim of the BPPP was to raise awareness of beach water quality issues, streamline testing along the New South Wales coast, and increase community access to beach water quality information.
The three key elements of the BPPP were:
Development of a water quality monitoring and reporting protocol to help councils design and run programs.
Funded pilot monitoring and reporting programs to test all aspects of the protocol.
Development of a training program to ensure future recreational monitoring and reporting is undertaken in a scientifically rigorous and credible manner.
Beachwatch Partnership Program
Councils that participated in the BPPP identified a need for ongoing assistance with data management, community reporting and quality assurance. The Beachwatch Partnership Program (BPP) began in 2004 to provide this assistance to councils.
As part of the BPP:
Coastal councils are contacted before the beginning of each summer swimming season to discuss intended recreational monitoring and reporting programs.
A program review is undertaken by Beachwatch field officers during the summer season; it includes quality assurance of sampling techniques and advice on data management procedures.
The laboratories used by councils are included in a quality assurance program coordinated by Beachwatch.
Data are collated and uploaded to the SoEdirect website.
Advice on reporting results to the community is provided.
Water quality analyses and assessment
Two types of indicator bacteria, faecal coliforms and enterococci, were used to assess recreational water quality in the summer 2004-2005 programs, as recommended by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). These bacteria indicate the possible presence of waterborne pathogens, organisms that pose significant risks to human health.
The assessment of water quality under the BPP during the 2004-2005 summer season was based primarily on the level of bacterial contamination. Faecal coliforms and enterococci were the bacterial indicators used.
Faecal coliforms, also known as thermotolerant coliforms, are strongly associated with faecal waste, and therefore are excellent indicators of recent faecal contamination. Faecal coliforms are not reliable indicators of aged faecal contamination owing to their short survival times in marine waters.
Enterococci are a subgroup of faecal streptococci and, in contrast to faecal coliforms, survive for longer periods in seawater. Enterococci are thus good indicators of the presence of aged faecal contamination.
Owing to resource constraints, some councils chose to analyse samples for only one type of indicator bacteria. Kempsey, Gosford and Bega tested for faecal coliforms only, and Clarence Valley tested for enterococci only.
The NHMRC Australian Guidelines for Recreational Use of Water (NHMRC 1990) were used to assess recreational water quality in the Beachwatch Partnership Program.
Details: Chapter 1 (PDF format, 270 KB)
Overview of findings
Below is a summary of key findings for each council area. Detailed results for each council area are provided in Chapter 2, along with individual beach pages for each site.
Ballina Shire Council
Nine swimming locations were monitored in the Ballina Shire Council area between November 2005 and February 2006. Faecal coliform and enterococci samples were collected from all locations to assess compliance with NHMRC (1990) swimming water quality guidelines.
The nine swimming sites were:
the ocean beaches of Seven Mile and Shelley
three sites in Lake Ainsworth
three sites in Shaws Bay, and
Seven Mile and Shelley beaches, as well as Lake Ainsworth South, Shaws Bay East and The Serpentine, passed the NHMRC (1990) swimming guidelines in all four months. Lake Ainsworth East failed the guidelines in two of the four months and Lake Ainsworth West, Shaws Bay North and Shaws Bay West failed the guidelines in one month.
To inform the community of water quality results during the summer swimming season, Ballina Council publishes weekly 'star ratings' in The Advocate, and also issues regular media releases.
Details: Chapter 2 - Ballina Shire Council (PDF format, 275 KB)
Clarence Valley Council
Eleven swimming locations were monitored in the Clarence Valley council area during summer 2005-2006. The sites were an ocean beach, a coastal lagoon, four estuarine swimming locations (two at the mouth of the Clarence River and two at the mouth of Wooli River) and five locations in the Clarence River.
Enterococci samples were collected between November 2005 and March 2006 to assess compliance with the NHMRC (1990) swimming water quality guidelines.
The cleanest beaches in the Clarence Valley Council area were:
Minnie Water Main Beach
Whiting Beach at the mouth of the Clarence River
Wooli Estuary North at the mouth of the Wooli River
Maclean Jetty on the Clarence River.
These five swimming locations passed the NHMRC (1990) guidelines in all months of the 2005-2006 summer swimming season in which sufficient samples were collected to assess compliance.
Wooli Estuary South and Iluka at the mouth of the Clarence River failed the guidelines in one month. Ulmarra Jetty, Corcoran Park, Prince Street and Grafton Sailing Club, all located on the Clarence River, failed the swimming guidelines in all months.
Clarence Valley Council will be erecting warning signs at Grafton sites with low compliance and also intends to undertake further monitoring to investigate the sources of pollution at these locations.
Details: Chapter 2 - Clarence Valley Council (PDF format, 282 KB)
Kempsey Shire Council
Ten swimming locations were monitored in the Kempsey Shire Council area between October 2005 and April 2006. The sites were:
the ocean beaches of Grassy Head, Stuarts Point, Horseshoe Bay, Trial Bay, Hat Head and Killick Beach
four coastal creeks (Back Creek, Killick Creek, Saltwater Creek and Korogoro Creek).
Faecal coliform samples were collected from all locations to assess compliance with NHMRC (1990) swimming water quality guidelines. However, only three samples were collected in April 2006, and this was insufficient to determine compliance.
Seven locations passed the NHMRC (1990) swimming guidelines in all months between October 2005 and March 2006.
Killick Creek and Stuarts Point failed the swimming guidelines in February 2006, and Saltwater Creek failed in November 2005 and February 2006.
Kempsey Council regularly updates water quality data and star ratings information on its website, providing the community with ongoing information during the summer swimming season.
Details: Chapter 2 - Kempsey Shire Council (PDF format, 275 KB)
Port Stephens Council
Seven swimming locations were monitored in the Port Stephens Council area between November 2005 and April 2006. The sites were an ocean beach, four estuarine swimming areas and two tidal pools.
Faecal coliform and enterococci samples were collected from all locations to assess compliance with NHMRC (1990) swimming water quality guidelines. Samples were collected at Dutchmans Beach in only three months (February, March and April 2006).
The cleanest swimming sites in the Port Stephens Shire were:
Birubi Beach at the northern end of Stockton Bight
Dutchmans Beach and Little Beach within Port Stephens
Karuah Tidal Pool and Lemon Tree Passage Tidal Pool.
These locations passed the swimming guidelines in all months.
Georges Reserve complied with the NHMRC (1990) swimming guidelines in four of the six months, and Bagnalls Beach complied with the guidelines in three of the six months.
Port Stephens Council engaged the University of Newcastle to investigate the source of the high bacterial levels measured at Bagnalls Beach. The study identified urban runoff and birds as the main sources of pollution at the site. Further investigation is planned for the upper catchment, and the Council also plans to conduct community education on stormwater and urban runoff issues.
Port Stephens Council issued joint media releases with DEC during the summer swimming season to provide the community with information on water quality at swimming sites.
Details: Chapter 2 - Port Stephens Council (PDF format, 248 KB)
Newcastle City Council
Newcastle Council routinely tests water quality at four ocean baths: Merewether Learners, Merewether Main, Canoe Pool and Newcastle Baths. Samples are collected year-round at two sites, but only data collected over the 2005-2006 summer swimming season are presented in this report. All four swimming locations passed the NHMRC (1990) swimming guidelines in all months.
Newcastle Council present water quality results from the ocean baths at open community meetings throughout the summer season and issued joint media releases with DEC. Council also plans to present the data on its website.
Details: Chapter 2 - Newcastle City Council (PDF format, 138 KB)
Wyong Shire Council
Twenty-nine swimming locations were monitored in the Wyong Shire Council area during the 2005–2006 summer swimming season. These sites included 17 ocean beaches, nine coastal lake sites, and three estuarine river sites in the Tuggerah Lakes catchment.
Faecal coliform and enterococci samples were collected from all locations to assess compliance with NHMRC (1990) swimming water quality guidelines.
The cleanest swimming sites in the Wyong Shire Council area were:
the ocean beaches of Frazer, Birdie, Budgewoi, Lakes, Hargraves, Jenny Dixon, Cabbage Tree, Lighthouse, Gravelly, Soldiers, North Entrance, The Entrance, Blue Bay, Shelly, Blue Lagoon and Bateau Bay
Summerland Point and Chain Valley Bay in Lake Macquarie
San Remo in Lake Budgewoi
These swimming sites passed the NHMRC (1990) guidelines in all seven months of the 2005–2006 swimming season.
A high level of compliance was also recorded at the ocean beach of Toowoon Bay and at Elizabeth Bay in Lake Munmorah; Long Jetty and Pelican in Tuggerah Lake; Gwandalan in Lake Macquarie; and Toukely Aquatic in Lake Budgewoi. These sites all complied with the swimming guidelines in six of the seven months of the swimming season.
Canton Beach in Tuggerah Lake complied with the swimming guidelines in four of the seven months.
Although bacterial levels were generally a lot lower than the very high levels recorded in recent years, Tumbi Umbi Creek and Ourimbah Creek failed the swimming guidelines in all seven months of the 2005–2006 summer swimming season, and Wyong River failed in six of the seven months. The lower bacterial levels are thought to be the result of the dry weather conditions and reduced wet weather pollution sources during summer 2005-2006. Swimming at these locations should be avoided at all times.
Wyong Council has erected warning signs at Tumbi Umbi Creek, Ourimbah Creek and several estuarine swimming locations where there has been a history of failure to meet swimming guidelines.
Details: Chapter 2 - Wyong Shire Council (PDF format, 777 KB)
Gosford City Council
Twenty-two swimming locations were monitored in the Gosford City Council area between October 2005 and April 2006. Faecal coliform samples were routinely collected to assess compliance with NHMRC (1990) swimming water quality guidelines at ten locations. At the remaining 12 sites, faecal coliform samples were collected approximately every two weeks.
The following locations passed the NHMRC (1990) swimming locations in all months of the 2005-2006 summer swimming season, in which sufficient samples were collected:
Bulbararing, Wamberal Lagoon, Terrigal Sailboards, Terrigal Paddleboats, Avoca Lake and Cockrone Lagoon
Terrigal, Avoca, Copacabana and McMasters rockpools.
At sites with less frequent monitoring, including Forresters, Wamberal and Umina ocean beaches, Davistown Baths, Ettalong Channel, Pretty Beach Baths, Umina Lagoon, Woy Woy Baths, Pearl Beach Rockpool, Killcare Rockpool and Yattalunga Baths, levels of faecal coliforms were generally low and provided no evidence of sewage contamination.
Slightly elevated faecal coliform levels were recorded at Pearl Beach Lagoon on most sampling occasions.
Gosford Council provides water quality information to the community on its website.
Details: Chapter 2 - Gosford City Council (PDF format, 542 KB)
Eurobodalla Shire Council
Eleven swimming locations were monitored in the Eurobodalla council area during the 2005-2006 summer swimming season. The sites were:
Cookies, Casey, Surf, Malua Bay, Broulee, Bengello, Shelley, Tuross, Brou and Narooma ocean beaches
Wagonga Inlet netted beach.
Faecal coliform and enterococci samples were collected between October 2005 and April 2006 to assess compliance with the NHMRC (1990) swimming water quality guidelines.
Nine of the 11 locations complied with the NHMRC (1990) guidelines in all seven months of the 2005-2006 summer swimming season. Shelley Beach and Surf Beach complied in six of the seven months, failing in November 2005 because of elevated levels of enterococci.
Eurobodalla Council issued joint media releases with DEC during the summer swimming season to provide the community with information on water quality at swimming sites.
Details: Chapter 2 - Eurobodalla Shire Council (PDF format, 352 KB)
Bega Valley Shire Council
Twenty-one swimming locations were monitored in the Bega Valley Shire Council area. Three beaches (Beares, Merimbula Main and Aslings) were monitored between November 2005 and January 2006. The remaining locations were monitored between December 2005 and January 2006, the two busiest months of the swimming season. The sites included:
the ocean beaches of Camel Rock, Horseshoe Bay, Beares Beach, Tathra Beach, Short Point, Merimbula, Pambula, Aslings and Cocora
Wallaga Lake (bridge), Mogareeka Lions Park and Boat Ramp, Spencer Park, Mitchies Jetty, Bar Beach, Pambula River Mouth, Cuttagee Inlet and Back Lake
Bruce Steer Pool, Big Blue Pool and Little Blue Pool.
Faecal coliform samples were collected to assess compliance with NHMRC (1990) swimming water quality guidelines. Compliance was assessed in November 2005, December 2005 and January 2006 at Beares, Merimbula Main and Aslings beaches, and all three sites complied in all months. Compliance was assessed in January 2006 at all other locations, and all passed the NHMRC (1990) swimming guidelines in this month.
Bega Valley Council issued joint media releases with DEC during the summer swimming season to provide the community with information on water quality at swimming sites.
Details: Chapter 2 - Bega Valley Shire Council (PDF format, 466 KB)
Response to rainfall
Whereas monitoring during the 2005-2006 swimming season focused on the assessment of guideline compliance, bacterial results were plotted with rainfall and, where possible, an assessment of the impact of rainfall on recreational water quality was also made. These trends are discussed on the individual beach pages and on the council summary pages.
Slightly elevated bacterial levels (values above median and geometric mean guideline limits) were measured at many swimming locations following heavy rainfall. However, these results were not necessarily indicative of sewage contamination (which for practical purposes is sometimes taken to be indicated by faceal coliform or enterococci levels of 1000 cfu/100 mL or more).
However, as with the previous two summer seasons, there were few large or extended wet weather events in most council areas. A greater response to rainfall may be recorded during periods of higher rainfall. Until more data are collected, it is recommended that swimming at ocean beaches be avoided during, and for at least 24 hours after, rainfall.
A greater response to rainfall was apparent at estuarine and coastal lake swimming locations. Elevated levels of indicator bacteria were measured during and after rainfall at many locations, indicating varying degrees of sewage contamination. As a precaution, it is recommended that swimming in estuaries and coastal lakes be avoided during, and up to three days after, rainfall.
Quality assurance and quality control procedures were incorporated into all aspects of the monitoring programs, including:
The results of these assessments indicate that councils collected samples according to procedures, the microbiological data are reliable, and the information reported to the community during the programs was accurate.
Details: Chapter 3 - Quality Assurance (PDF format, 39 KB)
There are two appendixes to this report.
Details: Appendixes (PDF format, 109 KB)
The format and structure of Beachwatch Partnership Pilot Program State of the Beaches 2005-06 may have been adapted for web delivery.
For technical information about this report contact:
Beachwatch, Department of Environment and Conservation NSW
59-61 Goulburn St, Sydney
PO Box A290, Sydney South NSW 1232
Phone: (02) 9995 5344
Fax: (02) 9995 5913
Beachwatch Partnership Program State of the Beaches 2005-06
Size: 297 mm x 210 mm (A4)
Length: 180 pp + cover
Published: October 2006
This publication was printed on recycled paper.
Department of Environment and Conservation (NSW)
59-61 Goulburn St
Sydney NSW 2000
PO Box A290
Sydney South NSW 1232
Phone: 131 555 (NSW only - publications and information requests)
(02) 9995 5000 (switchboard)
Fax: 9995 5999
TTY: (02)9211 4723
The Department of Environment and Conservation NSW is pleased to allow this material to be reproduced in whole or part, provided the meaning is unchanged and its source, publisher and authorship are acknowledged.
Page last updated: 26 February 2011