Beachwatch water quality program

Discover why the Beachwatch monitoring program was started, who we are and what we do.

Our monitoring program started in 1989 in response to community concern about sewage pollution washing up on Sydney’s beaches. At that time, more than one billion litres of sewage was discharged to the ocean daily. Beach goers often came into contact with sewage pollution when they were swimming.

The Beachwatch program monitors and reports recreational water quality at swimming sites in the Sydney region, and we partner with councils and wastewater managers for regional swimming sites along the NSW coast. Water samples are collected and tested for bacteria, showing signs of faecal pollution, and whether it is safe for swimming.

Since the program started, it has expanded several times.

Expansion of Beachwatch between 1989 and 2002

Today, our program monitors water quality at 132 swimming locations across Sydney, Hunter and Illawarra regions, as well as 117 swimming sites in partnership with local councils along the NSW coast.

Use our map to see these monitored sites.

Recreational water can sometimes be unsuitable for swimming, especially after rainfall when stormwater and wastewater can overflow. However, it has improved greatly since the 1980’s. Much of this is due to the building of deep ocean outfalls for the main coastal sewage treatment plants, as well as improvements in wastewater and stormwater management.

Our program provides regular and reliable beach water quality information to help people decide when and where to swim. Our daily pollution forecasts provide the latest recreational water quality conditions across Sydney, Hunter, Central Coast and Illawarra beaches. For each monitored swimming site, we also provide the latest water quality results (weekly star ratings) and annual beach grades which are reported each year in the State of the Beaches report.

Our routine water quality monitoring measures the impact of pollution sources at swimming sites over time. This enables the effectiveness of stormwater and wastewater management to be assessed, and highlights areas where further work is needed.