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New web app allows swimmers to check the cleanliness of their favorite spots

Why it matters to you

Just because water looks clean, that doesn't mean it is safe to swim in -- this new app will let you know what beaches to avoid.

When you are having fun in the water on a warm day, the last thing you want to think about is bacteria in the water. No matter how clean the water looks, you can never tell just by looking at it. Luckily, a new web-based app will put your mind at ease.

Land, Air, Water Aotearoa (Lawa) has recently made water cleanliness less of a guessing game for New Zealanders. By checking out its newly expanded website, swimmers can check out water testing data from around the country. If the water contains a certain level of indicator bacteria like e.coli or enterococci, you’ll be able to see that ahead of time.

The app is called Can I Swim Here? and it shows an overlay of the entire country with all the popular swim spots marked. Each dot is marked with four easy-to-identify colors to keep things simple: Green, orange, red, and black. If a location is green, the weekly bacteria count is within acceptable limits. Orange is still acceptable, but you should still proceed with caution. Red is considered unacceptable. For example, it could mean that e.coli levels have reached 500 parts per 100 milliliters. This could make someone sick. A black dot simply means that no data has been collected.

For information on what may have set off the alarms at your favorite swim spot, you’re out of luck. The website doesn’t go into that much detail. Instead, it acts as a quick source of information before you decide where to go for a swim.

Beyond this application, Lawa’s app points to a bigger question. Why are only some areas being affected? By looking at the patterns in the weekly data, areas will be able to see where the active problems are and better understand how to solve them.

Not surprisingly, the website is only meant for New Zealand, but other countries could very well be looking into this data. Wouldn’t you want a place to turn to find the cleanest water in your area?