Beachwatch and Harbourwatch State of the Beaches 2003-2004 Summary
This report describes the results of Beachwatch and Harbourwatch water quality monitoring and reporting activities at Sydney Metropolitan, Hunter and Illawarra ocean beaches and at Sydney estuarine beaches for the period 1 May 2003 to 30 April 2004. Discussion in this report focuses on the 2003-2004 summer season, which covers the period from 1 October 2003 to 30 April 2004.
Beachwatch uses two types of indicator bacteria, faecal coliforms and enterococci, to measure recreational water quality, as recommended by the National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council (ANZECC). These guidelines also refer to other physical and chemical parameters for the assessment of recreational water quality, such as pH, clarity and temperature. Beachwatch focuses on the use of faecal coliforms and enterococci, as these indicate the possible presence of waterborne pathogens that pose the most significant risks to human health. Results presented in this report are described in terms of faecal coliform and enterococci compliance with Beachwatch water quality criteria.
Details: Chapter 1 (PDF format, 529 KB)
Results for 2003-2004
An improvement in beach and harbour water quality was recorded for summer 2003-2004.
There was an overall improvement in recreational water quality, as measured by faecal coliform and enterococci compliance, throughout summer 2003-2004 in most regions monitored by Beachwatch. This occurred during a period of below-average rainfall being recorded in Sydney.
Of the 129 swimming sites included in the Beachwatch and Harbourwatch programs in the Sydney, Hunter and Illawarra regions, 86 sites complied 100% with Beachwatch criteria for both faecal coliforms and enterococci for summer 2003-2004. This compares favourably with results from the previous summer season (2002-2003), when 83 sites complied with water quality criteria for both indicators all of the time.
Most swimming sites recorded high levels of compliance with faecal coliform criteria, with 91% of sites complying all of the time and all but two sites complying more than 80% of the time. One hundred and fifteen swimming sites (91% of sites) complied more than 80% of the time with enterococci criteria.
Sydney metropolitan ocean beaches
Sydney's cleanest beaches during 2003-2004 were Palm, Whale, Avalon, Bilgola, Newport, Bungan, Mona Vale, Turimetta, North Narrabeen, Collaroy, Long Reef, Dee Why, North Curl Curl, South Curl Curl and Shelly Beach (Manly) in Sydney's north, the city beaches of Clovelly and Maroubra and the southern beaches of Greenhills, Wanda, Elouera, North Cronulla and Shelly Beach (Sutherland). These beaches all recorded 100% compliance with criteria for both faecal coliforms and enterococci.
Thirty-four out of 35 Sydney beaches complied more than 80% with Beachwatch guidelines for both bacterial indicators (faecal coliforms and enterococci). This is a small improvement on results from the previous summer (2002-2003), when 31 beaches complied more than 80% for both indicators. The only beach with enterococci compliance lower than 80% in 2003-2004 was Boat Harbour in Sydney's south (68%).
Details: Chapter 3 - Northern Sydney Ocean Beaches (PDF format, 2752 KB)
Details: Chapter 3 - City and Southern Sydney Ocean Beaches (PDF format, 1476 KB)
Hunter region ocean beaches
The good news from previous summer seasons has continued for the Hunter region beaches during summer 2003-2004. Once again, Hunter beaches are the cleanest group of beaches monitored as part of the Sydney, Hunter and Illawarra Beachwatch program.
Sixteen of the 17 Hunter beaches complied 100% with Beachwatch water quality criteria for both faecal coliforms and enterococci for the entire 2003-2004 summer season. Fingal Beach did not comply 100% with the enterococci criteria, although compliance was still very high at 97%.
Details: Chapter 3 - Hunter Region Beaches (PDF format, 2355 KB)
Illawarra region ocean beaches
Eleven of the 15 beaches monitored for both faecal coliforms and enterococci recorded 100% compliance with Beachwatch criteria for both faecal coliforms and enterococci during the 2003-2004 summer season. This is a slightly higher level of compliance than for summer 2002-2003.
A 31-percentage point increase in both faecal coliform and enterococci compliance was recorded at Fishermans Beach. Increases in enterococci compliance were also recorded at Lake Illawarra Entrance (44 percentage points) and North Wollongong Beach (12 percentage points).
Details: Chapter 3 - Illawarra Region Beaches (PDF format, 2130 KB)
Sydney metropolitan harbour and bay swimming sites
For the fourth consecutive summer season, there was an overall improvement in recreational water quality, as determined by faecal coliform and enterococci compliance, at harbour beaches in Sydney.
Overall, 37 of the 59 harbour beaches complied 100% with Beachwatch criteria for faecal coliforms and enterococci for the 2003-2004 summer season. These results compare favourably with those from the previous four summers. Compliances of 100% for both indicators were recorded at only six harbour beaches in 1999-2000, 16 harbour beaches in 2000-2001, 23 harbour beaches in 2001-2002, and 35 harbour beaches in 2002-2003.
Improvements in water quality compared with the previous summer season were recorded at 18 of the 59 harbour sites. Seventeen of these sites were located in Sydney Harbour.
For the first time since Harbourwatch was established, all five swimming locations in the lower Parramatta River complied 100% with criteria for both faecal coliforms and enterococci. For only the second time, and for the second consecutive summer, all four swimming sites in North Harbour complied 100% with both criteria. High levels of compliance were also recorded at Port Jackson beaches.
In contrast, the good results recorded at Botany Bay and Port Hacking swimming locations last summer were not repeated in 2003-2004. Only four sites in Botany Bay and one site in Port Hacking complied with swimming guidelines 100% of the time during summer 2003-2004.
In Botany Bay, decreases in compliance of more than 20 percentage points were recorded at Ramsgate Baths, Foreshores Beach, Yarra Bay and Frenchmans Bay. In Port Hacking, decreases in compliance of between nine and 25 percentage points were recorded at Gunnamatta Bay Baths, Gymea Bay Baths, Horderns Beach and Jibbon Beach.
Falls in the level of compliance in Botany Bay may be related to maintenance works undertaken on the Southern and Western Suburbs Ocean Outfall Sewers (SWSOOS) in the Botany area. These works require the temporary isolation of sections of the sewer. This reduces the sewer's capacity and increases the likelihood of sewage overflows during the period of maintenance. The works are necessary to improve the performance of the system and will reduce the number of sewage overflows in the future.
Decreases in compliance of more than 10 percentage points were also recorded at Davidson Reserve in Middle Harbour; Tambourine Bay in Lower Lane Cove River; Paradise Beach Baths, Clareville Beach and Bayview Baths in Pittwater; and Jewfish Bay Baths in Lower Georges River.
Details: Chapter 4 - Pittwater (PDF format, 2080 KB)
Details: Chapter 4 - Sydney Harbour (PDF format, 2658 KB)
Details: Chapter 4 - Botany Bay, Lower Georges River and Port Hacking (PDF format, 2372 KB)
Actions to improve beach and harbour water quality
Many actions are being taken to prevent pollution at the beach. State and local governments are tackling sources of pollution in a range of ways. Chapter 2 outlines the developments and achievements for 2003-2004 in the following areas:
Sewage Treatment Plants
Upgrades to Sydney's coastal sewage treatment plants
Upgrades to the Hunter's coastal sewage treatment plants
Sydney Water's Illawarra Wastewater Strategy
The Gerringong/Gerroa Sewerage Scheme
- Sydney Water's SewerFix Program
- Sydney Water's Hotspots Program
- Upgrades to the sewerage system in the Hunter
Details: Chapter 2 (PDF format, 192 KB)
Beachwatch quality assurance program
The Beachwatch quality assurance (QA) program is undertaken to ensure that the data collected and presented are accurate and reliable. This includes QA of field sampling, microbiological analysis of beach water samples and reporting to the community. Results indicate that Beachwatch field data are collected according to established protocols, the microbiological data are reliable, and Beachwatch information reported to the community is accurate and timely.
Details: Chapter 5 (PDF format, 139 KB)
The routine monitoring of bacterial water quality undertaken by the Beachwatch and Harbourwatch programs has established a good understanding of how receiving waters respond to changing pressures from adjacent catchments. However, targeted studies are from time to time required to investigate specific causes of poor water quality that may have aroused community concerns. During 2003-2004, special studies were undertaken in Darling Harbour and Yarra Bay.
Details: Chapter 6 (PDF format, 589 KB)
There are three appendixes to this report:
Appendix 1 describes the use of indicator micro-organisms in establishing the suitability of a body of water for recreational use.
Appendix 2 presents the detailed results of the microbiological quality assurance program.
Appendix 3 is intended to point the reader towards other information sources relating to bacterial pollution of waterways used for recreation and human health risks.
A list of references, a glossary, and a beach index are also provided at the end of the report.
Details: Appendixes (PDF format, 364 KB)
The format and structure of Beachwatch and Harbourwatch State of the Beaches 2003-2004 may have been adapted for web delivery.
The report was reviewed by the Beachwatch Advisory Committee:
Bernard Carlon (Chairperson), Department of Environment and Conservation (NSW)
Rex Campbell, Surfrider Foundation
Graham Cassidy, Australian Professional Surfers Association
Paul Byleveld, NSW Department of Health
Phil Colman, Sydney Coastal Council
David Harrison, Australian Yachting Federation
Patricia Harvey, Sydney Coastal Council
Colin Huntingdon, Total Catchment Management
Colin Lennox, Oz Green (representing the Nature Conservation Council)
For technical information about this report contact:
Beachwatch, Department of Environment and Conservation (NSW)
59-61 Goulburn Street, Sydney
PO Box A290, Sydney South NSW 1232
Phone: (02) 9995 5344
Fax: (02) 9995 5913
Size: 297 mm x 210 mm (A4)
Length: 327 pp + cover
Published: October 2004
This publication was printed on recycled paper.
Department of Environment and Conservation (NSW)
59-61 Goulburn Street, Sydney
PO Box A290, Sydney South NSW 1232
Phone: (02) 9995 5000 (switchboard)
Phone: 131 555 (information and publications requests)
Fax: (02) 9995 5999
TTY: (02) 9211 4723
Disclaimer: The EPA has compiled the information in this publication in good faith, exercising all due care and attention. No representation is made as to its accuracy, completeness or suitability for any particular purpose. Readers should seek appropriate advice as to the suitability of the information for their particular needs.
Copyright: Beachwatch and Harbourwatch State of the Beaches 2003-2004 is copyright, however the Department of Environment and Conservation 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