Ideally we wouldn't need this latest innovation, but New Zealand's national water quality issues means checking the pollution forecast before hitting the beach could become as common as checking the weather.
DHI currently provides forecasts of health risk for bathing for nine beaches in central Auckland for up to three days. It uses data gathered from a variety of sources, including Met Service and Auckland Council. The service was launched to public in Auckland this week as part of Safeswim (safeswim.org.nz). This is a joint initiative between Auckland Council, Watercare, Surf Lifesaving Northern Region and the Auckland Regional Public Health Service. Safeswim provides water quality forecasts and up-to-date information on risks to your health and safety at 84 beaches and eight freshwater locations around Auckland.
The DHI solution is based on a system that has been in use in Copenhagen since 2002 and similar operations in Sweden and Ireland. A pilot has been operating in Auckland’s Viaduct area since 2012, and a central harbour forecast since 2014. Greater Wellington Regional Council has been trialling a similar system for Porirua Harbour since 2015. This model is still being validated, but it’s anticipated to be available for the 2018/2019 summer bathing season.
Key overflows near central city bathing beaches can be significant sources of harbour pollutants. The new system predicts when these occur and the resulting dilution and inactivation of bacteria within the harbour through wind and tides. The predictions are then presented on the Safeswim website, which shows a series of flags. These indicate forecast risk posed by water contamination in accordance with Ministry for Environment recreational guidelines. The model doesn’t cover every possible source of pollution. But it does give guidance on the likely health risk for swimming following rain.
A team of technical experts from Mott Macdonald, Martin Jenkins and Translate Digital worked behind the scenes. The internal DHI team consisted of a coastal scientist, an urban engineer, a water quality specialist and a developer for the nine locations that make up the DHI part of the initiative. The next phase is hopefully to expand the DHI model to provide forecasts for more of the 84 beaches presented as part of Safeswim.
SBN is currently exploring options for a large scale collaborative project to protect and restore the water quality of the Hauraki Gulf. The project is intended to be a unique collaboration between our Auckland based SBN members and the 10 water restoration projects we are supporting through our Million Metres crowdfunding platform.
SBN CEO Rachel Brown says: “Safeswim will make a really important contribution to the health of our families, not least because it will highlight the urgent need for all of us to take protecting and restoring our waterways and seas much more seriously.”