Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) and Kidsafe Victoria have teamed up to encourage parents to check the water quality forecast before taking children swimming in Port Phillip Bay or the Yarra River this summer.
From tomorrow (1 December), EPA’s twice-daily water quality forecasts will be published online at yarraandbay.vic.gov.au to help Victorians make informed decisions about where and when to swim.
The forecasts cover 36 Port Phillip Bay beaches and four reaches on the Yarra River, in partnership with Melbourne Water.
“We know Victorians love their beaches and generally, we enjoy good water quality in the Yarra and Bay but heavy rains can carry stormwater pollution to our favourite swim spots,” EPA Chief Environmental Scientist Dr Andrea Hinwood said.
“This urban soup may contain many substances you can see, such as broken glass, and many you can’t, such as bacteria which can cause gastro.
“This is why we’re calling on parents to ‘make sure it’s ok, check Yarra and Bay’.”
Royal Children’s Hospital consultant paediatric gastroenterologist Dr Ed Giles said children’s immunes systems were still developing which made them particularly vulnerable to infection.
“While most cases of gastroenteritis are mild and self-limiting, it is still one of the leading causes of attendance to the emergency department and a huge burden on families and health resources and uncommonly, can even be life-threatening,” he said.
“My advice to parents is to stay informed about the quality and safety of any areas that they are considering swimming in.”
Through the website yarraandbay.vic.gov.au, people can sign up to receive SMS alerts when water quality at their nominated beaches is poor and see alerts on issues affecting the bay and its water catchments.
Forecasts are also posted on EPA Victoria’s Twitter page daily and displayed at 28 Life Saving Victoria clubs on weekends and public holidays.
Kidsafe Victoria President Erica Edmands said the yarraandbay.vic.gov.au provided an extremely valuable health resource for the tens of thousands of parents who take their children to the beach or river over summer.
“Knowing whether or not the water is safe is crucial information for all families visiting the beach,” she said.
Through yarraandbay.vic.gov.au beaches are rated as ‘Good’, ‘Fair’ or ‘Poor’. On Fair days, people should check for signs of pollution, such as discoloured water, odour, rubbish and stormwater drains flowing, before deciding whether or not to swim. On ‘Poor’ days, the water quality is not suitable for swimming.
“Stormwater run-off transports everything from litter and animal wastes to oils and chemicals from the street to the beach, which is why EPA’s ongoing advice is to avoid swimming for up to 48 hours after heavy rain as in that time there may be a higher risk of illness from increased bacterial levels,” Dr Hinwood said.
“Everyone has a role to play to protect our environment and our water quality by always picking up after their dog, putting litter in the bin and reporting pollution to our 24-hour hotline 1300 EPA VIC (1300 372 842).”
The forecasts will run until March 11.
* Please note that it is illegal to swim in the Yarra downstream of Gipps Street, Abbotsford.