Beachwatch and Harbourwatch State of the Beaches 1999-2000 Summary
This report describes the monitoring and reporting activities of Beachwatch and Harbourwatch at Sydney, Hunter and Illawarra ocean beaches and Sydney estuarine bathing areas during winter 1999 and summer 1999-2000, covering the period from 1 May 1999 to 30 April 2000. The focus of this report is on the summer 1999-2000 swimming season (1 October 1999 to 30 April 2000).
Beachwatch uses two types of indicator organisms, 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). Results presented in this report are described in terms of faecal coliform and enterococci compliance with water quality criteria).
Details: Chapter 1 (PDF format, 66 KB)
Results for 1999-2000
Rainfall the key
For the second year in a row above average rainfall was recorded during summer, resulting in stormwater pollution affecting a number of Sydney and Illawarra ocean beaches. Sydney estuarine waters were also affected by sewer overflows triggered by intense summer rains during 1999-2000. The Hunter region beaches continue to be the cleanest group of beaches monitored in the Beachwatch program and the least affected by rainfall and the stormwater it produces.
Most of the rain fell in two months, when over half the total rainfall for summer 1999-2000 was recorded. October 1999 was the wettest October in 12 years with March 2000 being the wettest March in 16 years.
A case study comparing the results from this summer with those of the previous summer seasons is included in the report to highlight the effect increased rainfall has on levels of pollution at Sydney beaches.
Details: Case Study (PDF format, 19 KB)
Sydney metropolitan ocean beaches
Despite the wet summer, the northern Sydney beaches from Palm Beach to Freshwater (with the exception of Dee Why), and the city beaches of Bondi, Tamarama and Bronte recorded high levels of compliance with national health guidelines for recreational waters.
Queenscliff (48%), North Steyne (71%) and Shelly Beach (29%), all located in Manly, recorded a considerable decrease in enterococci compliance levels this summer.
Malabar Beach, one of Sydney's city beaches, failed to comply with enterococci criteria throughout the entire 1999-2000 summer season.
The southern beaches of Sydney continued to record the overall lowest compliance levels against water quality criteria. Shelly Beach failed to comply with enterococci criteria throughout the entire 1999-2000 summer season. The most likely pollution sources in this area are the cliff-face sewage outfall at Potter Point (which is being upgraded) and numerous stormwater drains in the region.
Details: Chapter 3 - Northern Sydney Ocean Beaches (PDF format, 1193 KB)
Details: Chapter 3 - City and Southern Sydney Ocean Beaches (PDF format, 773 KB)
Hunter region ocean beaches
The Hunter region beaches continue to be the cleanest group of beaches monitored as part of the Sydney, Hunter and Illawarra Beachwatch program.
Fifteen of the seventeen Hunter beaches, including all Port Stephens and Newcastle City Council beaches, complied 100 per cent with both faecal coliform and enterococci criteria for the entire 1999-2000 summer season.
Only two beaches, Dudley (92%) and Redhead Beach (88%), did not comply 100 per cent with enterococci water quality criteria for summer 1999-2000, but compliance was still high.
Details: Chapter 3 - Hunter Region Beaches (PDF format, 1926 KB)
Illawarra region ocean beaches
An overall decrease in compliance with recreational water quality guidelines was recorded in the Illawarra due to above average rainfall during summer 1999-2000. Intense rainfall during March 2000 resulted in stormwater pollution and sewage treatment plant bypasses being recorded in the Illawarra.
Bulli (90%), Woonona (84%), Bellambi (84%), Lake Illawarra (29%) and Warilla (90%) all recorded a decrease in compliance compared to the previous summer season, although compliance with both indicators was above 80 per cent at all Illawarra beaches with the exception of the entrance to Lake Illawarra.
Despite the wet weather, an improvement in water quality was recorded at North Wollongong and Fishermans Beach this summer.
Details: Chapter 3 - Illawarra Region Beaches (PDF format, 736 KB)
Sydney metropolitan harbours and bays
The above average rainfall recorded in summer 1999-2000 also resulted in pollution from stormwater and sewer overflows affecting a number of Sydney harbour and bay swimming sites.
Despite the wet season, 21 harbour swimming sites recorded an improvement in faecal coliform compliance compared to the previous summer, with 38 sites recording an improvement in enterococci compliance.
The Basin and Great Mackerel Beach in Pittwater, Chinamans Beach in Middle Harbour, Frenchmans Bay and Congwong Bay in Botany Bay, and Lilli Pilli Bay Baths in Port Hacking all achieved 100 per cent compliance with recreational water quality criteria for the entire 1999-2000 summer season.
A dramatic improvement in water quality was recorded at Gunnamatta Bay Baths in Port Hacking. Enterococci compliance has increased from zero percent in 1998-99 to 71 per cent compliance with national health guidelines in summer 1999-2000 (faecal coliform compliance increased from 84 per cent to 90 per cent).
Darling Harbour continued to record the lowest compliance levels in the Harbourwatch program, recording 35% compliance with faecal coliform criteria and only 16% compliance with enterococci criteria.
Details: Chapter 4 - Pittwater (PDF format, 695 KB)
Details: Chapter 4 - Sydney Harbour (PDF format, 1855 KB)
Details: Chapter 4 - Botany Bay, Georges River & Port Hacking (PDF format, 1222 KB)
Preventing beach pollution
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 acheivements for 1999-2000 in the following areas:
Sewage Treatment Plants
Details: Chapter 2 (PDF format, 45 KB)
Quality assurance program
The Beachwatch quality assurance (QA) program is undertaken to ensure that the data collected and presented is 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 is collected according to established protocols, the microbiological data is generally reliable and Beachwatch information reported to the community is accurate and timely.
Details: Chapter 5 (PDF format, 32 KB)
Harbour rainfall recovery study
The post-rainfall recovery time of swimming sites in Sydney Harbour has been under investigation by Harbourwatch since 1997. This year the study focused on Rose Bay, Man O' War Jetty (Farm Cove), Chiswick Baths, Cabarita Beach and Sangrado Baths.
Results indicate that bacterial indicator levels fell below health guideline limits one day after rainfall at Rose Bay, two days after rainfall at Man O' War Jetty and Chiswick Baths, and three days after rainfall at Cabarita Beach and Sangrado Baths.
Details: Chapter 6 (PDF format, 83 KB)
Monitoring the bacterial density of five sites within Sydney Harbour to be used for water-based sporting events during the 2000 Olympic Games continued this summer. Water quality at two sites is being monitored for the triathlon swimming event and three sites for the sailing events.
Results of this study indicate that the median bacterial density taken over the bathing season at all monitored Olympic sites are well below health guideline limits for recreational use of water. Like most Sydney Harbour sites, bacterial densities can become elevated after rainfall.
Details: Chapter 7 (PDF format, 220 KB)
There are three appendixes to this report:
Appendix 1 describes the use of indicator microorganisms 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 both bacterial pollution of waterways used for recreation, and human health risks.
A list of references and a glossary are also provided at the end of the report.
Details: Appendixes (PDF format, 95 KB)
Page last updated: 26 February 2011