Both Umina and Killcare beaches have had their ratings downgraded from Very Good to Good in the recently-released State of the Beaches Report while Ocean Beach has maintained its Good rating.
The annual report provides an overview of the water quality at swimming locations monitored under the Beachwatch and Beachwatch Partnership programs across NSW.
Swimming sites are graded Very Good, Good, Fair, Poor or Very Poor in accordance with the National Health and Medical Research Council’s 2008 Guidelines for Managing Risks in Recreational Waters.
Central Coast Council Director Environment and Planning, Scott Cox, acknowledged improvement was needed at estuarine waterways throughout the region and said the report was an important resource in managing water quality at swimming sites across the region.
“Estuarine sites – such as Brisbane Water – are particularly susceptible to stormwater pollution due to the slower natural flushing process,” he said.
“We should not, however, rely solely on the natural flushing process for the health of our waterways, we need to work collaboratively to manage catchment runoff and other related impacts to reduce pollutant sources entering (them).”
Cox said Council had projects underway, some in partnership with the NSW Government, focused on improving water quality.
He said works in place included extensive water quality testing of the waterways and testing and upgrades throughout the sewer and stormwater networks.
Umina and Killcare were two of five Central Coast beaches downgraded in this year’s ratings.
“While the microbial water quality at Terrigal Beach has shown a decline in performance in 2020–2021, it remains close to the threshold between Good and Poor,” the report said.
“The site grade has fluctuated between Good and Poor for several years.
“Enterococci levels occasionally exceeded the safe swimming limit in dry weather conditions and often following light rainfall.
“The decline in water quality reflects a higher proportion of samples collected at Terrigal Beach during wet weather compared to the 2019–2020 assessment period.
“During 2019–2020 Central Coast Council, the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment and the University of Technology Sydney investigated the scale and extent of elevated bacterial levels at Terrigal Beach.
“Council is using the findings from the investigation to detect and resolve water quality issues in the catchment,” the report said.
And also poor were nine swimming sites: Gwandalan; Chain Valley Bay and Mannering Park Baths in Lake Macquarie; Lake Munmorah Baths in Lake Munmorah; Canton Beach in Tuggerah Lakes and four coastal lagoons at: Wamberal; Terrigal; Avoca and Cockrone.
The report said rainfall is the major driver of pollution to recreational waters, generating stormwater runoff and triggering untreated discharges from the wastewater treatment and transport systems.
“Changes in rainfall patterns are reflected in beach water quality over time due to variation in the frequency and extent of stormwater and wastewater inputs,” the report said.
Total rainfall for winter 2020 was the wettest in NSW since 2016, with well above average rainfall falling along the NSW coast.
The State of the Beaches report can be viewed at NSW Government’s Department of Planning, Industry and Environment’s website, environment.nsw.gov.au.
Community members can view daily forecasts of water quality at environment.nsw.gov.au/beach.
The Terrigal and Coastal Lagoons Audit is underway and community members can see details on Council’s website.
Terry Collins and Merilyn Vale