We take part in a quality assurance program to ensure our water quality data is the best it can be. This program includes quality assurance of field sampling, laboratory analysis and our reports to the community.
Water samples for the Beachwatch program are collected by a number of different agencies. To ensure that all samples are taken the same way and information is correct, sampling activities are audited regularly each year.
The collection of water samples by Hunter Water, Sydney Water and local councils is audited by Beachwatch field officers throughout the year. Audits on Beachwatch field officers are conducted during the year by the Beachwatch Senior Project Officer.
These audits include an assessment of the field officers’ performances according to the Beachwatch program’s set of standard protocols for sampling, including the aseptic sampling technique sample storage and recording of field observations.
After each audit, a report that describes the results of the audit and any issues of concern is provided to the audited organisation for its information or action if necessary. The results of these audits can also be found in the Annual State of the Beaches Report.
To make sure that Beachwatch program test results are reliable, we and our partners use laboratories that must meet certain standards and undergo audits of their performance.
The three commercial laboratories which analyse Beachwatch water samples are accredited by the National Association of Testing Authorities, Australia (NATA) and undertake regular proficiency testing as part of this accreditation.
Beachwatch also tests the reliability of sample analysis by submitting a duplicate water sample from each sampling run. Duplicate samples are collected from the same location at the same time. Each duplicate is given another name so it is not identified with any other water sample, and the laboratory does not know that the sample has been collected from the same location. The results are expected to be similar.
Beachwatch Partnership Program
The laboratories used in the Beachwatch Partnership Program are mostly NATA accredited or undertake regular proficiency testing. This means these laboratories meet with strict assessments and the accuracy of the data is reliable.
Beachwatch assists non-accredited council laboratories with advice on quality control procedures and a proficiency testing program to ensure the reliability of results.
The results of this testing are reported each year in the Annual State of the Beaches Report.
Reporting results to the community
Reporting current beach water quality information to the community is a key function of Beachwatch. As part of the quality assurance program, Beachwatch measures the accuracy and consistency of the content in our reports, and the punctuality of our reporting. When necessary, this information is used to improve the water quality reporting process. Audits of Beachwatch reporting are conducted weekly and reported each year in the Annual State of the Beaches Report.