Christmas has come early for swimmers, with LAWA (Land, Air, Water Aotearoa) today launching an updated version of ‘Can I swim here?’ online. The online tool includes the latest results from water quality monitoring of almost 700 New Zealand rivers, lakes, and beaches.

This means whether people are spending Christmas at home, or heading out of town, they can find where’s good to swim.

Anna Madarasz-Smith is a water quality scientist and leads the ‘Can I swim here?’ project, as a mum of three children she hopes this tool will encourage families to get out and explore.

“With the information on ‘Can I swim here?’ people can swim in our great outdoors with confidence this summer.

“It’s likely your favourite spot is monitored, though with dozens of swimming sites listed for each region, you may discover a new favourite,” said Mrs Madarasz-Smith.

A timely feature of ‘Can I swim here?’ is that it shows toxic algae results for rivers and lakes where this is monitored. It’s the first time this information has been available on a nationwide website and as Anna explains, it’s something important to consider before taking a dip.

“Toxic algae has been particularly prevalent in rivers and lakes over the past couple of weeks, due to a warm and dry start to the summer season. It’s important people know what to look for as this poses a health risk, especially for small children and dogs,” said Mrs Madarasz-Smith.

‘Can I swim here?’ also features E coli results for freshwater sites and enterococci results for beaches. LAWA group chair Stephen Woodhead said many council science teams will be working over the summer holiday period to keep New Zealanders informed.

“Water quality changes; so over summer, council science teams monitor your favourite rivers, lakes, and beaches. These results are now freely available on ‘Can I swim here?’.

“A handy tip is to save LAWA onto the home screen on your mobile, for instant access to you favourite swimming sites’.

“Some councils also provide point-of-entry signs at popular sites, and swimmers should take notice and follow their instructions,” said Mr Woodhead.

‘Can I swim here?’ is part of the wider LAWA (Land, Air, Water Aotearoa) project, aimed at connecting New Zealanders with their environment through sharing scientific data.

LAWA is a partnership between New Zealand’s 16 regional councils, the Ministry for the Environment and the Cawthron Institute.