The 2021-22 State of the Beaches Report – the annual rating of ocean and estuarine swimming sites across NSW using Beachwatch results – has rated 89 percent of the Central Coast’s ocean beaches and ocean baths as ‘Good or Very Good’.
While this rating is slightly down on the 2020-2021 report, it was acknowledged in the report, that the unprecedented rain and subsequent flooding events had impacted on water quality in many locations.
Central Coast Council’s Director Environment and Planning, Alice Howe, said the annual report is an important resource to help Council manage water quality at swimming sites across the region.
“We all know what a challenging year it has been weather-wise, so it is pleasing that despite this 13 out of 15 ocean beaches (86%) rated as Good or Very Good for water quality. This means water quality at these sites is suitable for swimming most of the time but can be susceptible to pollution following rainfall.
“Although two of our ocean beaches Terrigal Beach and Toowoon Bay received a Poor rating for water quality – indicating that these areas are susceptible to faecal pollution, particularly after rainfall – the rating for both sites were at the better end of the Poor threshold.
“What is also pleasing to see in the report, is that all Central Coast ocean baths remained graded as Good, with water quality suitable for swimming most of the time after little or no rain and that the North Entrance Beach rating went up from Good to Very Good.
Dr Howe said the report is a timely reminder that Council advises residents that all ocean beaches can be affected by stormwater pollution for up to 24 hours after rain and swimming should be avoided in this time.
“Estuarine sites – such as our coastal lagoons, Brisbane Water, Tuggerah Lakes and Lake Macquarie – are particularly susceptible to stormwater pollution due to the slower natural flushing process and swimming is not recommended at these locations for three days after a rain event.”
The report author, the Department of Planning and Environment (DPE), acknowledged in the State of the Beaches Report, that the Central Coast had experienced above average rainfall in 2022, which is reflected in water quality results. In particular:
- High rainfall events can cause sewer system discharges.
- In estuaries, lakes and lagoons with a lower level of flushing, recovery from sewer system failures will be slower.
In addition to this, Central Coast beaches have been significantly impacted by Hawkesbury River flood water. While microbial levels returned to normal at many swimming sites, there was still a large amount of debris or other hazards, such as murky water, which posed a risk to recreational activities.
Dr Howe said Council is committed to the health of all waterways, and extensive audits and studies have been undertaken to identify the factors contributing to the poor water quality at Terrigal Beach, the surrounding coastal lagoons and other estuarine waterways and beaches. These have included water quality and sediment sampling, comprehensive inspections of both the stormwater and sewer systems, and microbial source tracking.
A range of remedial actions have been undertaken by Council, including upgrades and renewal work to the sewer system, pump stations and sewage treatment plants.
“We also have CCTV monitoring of the sewer network to identify areas requiring maintenance. To date 202 kilometres of sewer network have been monitored, with rehabilitation of sewer mains based on the condition assessments from the CCTV inspection program. In total 72 kilometres of sewer gravity mains have been relined to date.” Dr Howe said
Council Administrator, Rik Hart said it was pleasing to see the vast majority of Central Coast ocean beaches and all ocean baths receive a ‘Good or Very Good’ rating despite the unprecedented weather this year.
“The numerous beautiful beaches of the Central Coast are at the heart of what makes this region so special and it is vital that we take care of these precious waterways,” Mr Hart said.
“Our State of the Beaches report card for 2021-22 is good but there is certainly room for improvement and we will continue to roll out a number of measures designed to improve water quality across the Coast.”
The State of the Beaches report can be viewed at: https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/topics/water/beaches
Council is progressing with further audits and remedial work in our waterway catchments, including the Terrigal and Coastal Lagoon Audit (see https://www.yourvoiceourcoast.com/project-stage/terrigal-and-coastal-lagoons-audit), and these will be integrated into the Coastal Management Programs – www.yourvoiceourcoast.com/waterways
Community members can view information on swim safety and daily forecasts of water quality at https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/beachmapp/