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  Environment » Environmental Information » Environmental indicators » Rivers and streams: monitoring and reporting » River water quality for contact recreation

River water quality for contact recreation

Why we monitor river water quality for contact recreation 

The Waikato Regional Council monitors a representative sample of rivers and streams across the region to determine how good the water quality is for contact recreation (such as swimming and water skiing).

This indicator measures the numbers of faecal bacteria and the water clarity in our rivers and streams. It is measured as an average 'pass rate' for two water quality measures:

  • water clarity at baseflow
  • Escherichia coli – single sample.

If water quality is poor then recreational activities such as swimming, kayaking and water-skiing can be unsafe. Sometimes ‘bad bugs’ from human and animal faeces – micro-organisms such as protozoans, bacteria and viruses – can get into waterways. These ‘bad bugs’ can cause illness when people are exposed to them. Other contaminants such as fine silts and clays reduce the clarity of the water, making it difficult to see and avoid submerged hazards like snags.

What's happening?

River water quality for contact recreation is better in some parts of the region (for example, the upper Waikato River and tributaries of Lake Taupō) than in others (for example, Hauraki and the lowland tributaries of the Waikato River). This is mainly because of the greater intensity of land use in the lowland parts of the region.

More information

More detail on this indicator, including how and where  Waikato  Regional Council  collects this information, is available in the Technical Information page.

Useful links

Documents available from Waikato Regional Council


You can order any of these documents from our library. Most documents will incur a charge.
Tulagi, A. 2014. Waikato River Water Quality Monitoring Programme: Data Report 2013. Waikato Regional Council Technical Report 2014/31. Waikato Regional Council, Hamilton.

Tulagi, A. 2014. Regional Rivers Water Quality Monitoring Programme Data Report 2013. Waikato Regional Council Technical Report 2014/30. Waikato Regional Council, Hamilton.

When this indicator is updated 

This indicator is updated annually.

Contact at Waikato Regional 

Water Quality Scientist - Science and Strategy Directorate

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