Territory and Municipal Services


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Update: Wednesday 23 April 2014. Household waste and recycling collection.

Water Quality in Our Lakes, Ponds and Rivers

The ACT Government monitors the environmental status of Canberra's lakes, ponds and rivers and advises changes in water quality conditions in relation to bacteria, Blue-green algae and other potentially hazardous conditions, such as flooding. General water quality parameters are also monitored in the lakes, rivers and ponds to pick up long term trends. The ACT Guidelines for Recreational Water Quality, issued in June 2010, provide a framework for the management of recreational activity in ACT lakes and rivers. The guidelines break down recreational use into two categories; primary and secondary contact recreation.

Primary contact recreation

This involves whole-body contact in which the entire body or the face and trunk are frequently immersed or the face is frequently wet by spray, and where it is likely that some water will be swallowed, inhaled, or come into contact with ears, nasal passages, mucous membranes or cuts in the skin (e.g. swimming, diving, waterskiing, windsurfing).

Secondary contact recreation

This may involve incidental contact in which only the limbs are regularly wet and where greater contact is unusual (e.g. boating, fishing, canoeing and rowing). There may be occasional and inadvertent immersion through accidents (e.g. slipping into the water).

Spikes in the levels of bacteria and/or Blue-green algae may result in the closure of recreational areas to primary contact and/or secondary contact. The following table provides current advice for Canberra's recreational lakes and rivers. Signage displaying current advice is installed in recreational locations across Canberra's lakes and rivers.

Please note that members of the public are reminded to check signage at recreational areas and to assess the water for changes in conditions and possible hazards prior to entering the water.

Current Advice - as of 10 April 2014

Hazard alert

Lake Tuggeranong – All beaches are closed to primary contact (swimming) due to extreme levels of Blue Green algae

Murrumbidgee River – All beaches are closed to primary contact (swimming) due to high levels of Bacteria

The Molonglo Waterski area remains closed to the general public for recreational water skiing, due to a large amount of submerged logs being washed downstream during various storm events in recent years. The ACT Waterski Association Inc has been granted a license to use a small part of the ski area under strict conditions for training and competitions only. For more information visit: http://www.tams.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/398092/QA_Molonglo_River_Waterski_Nov_2012.pdf  (PDF - 81KB)

Lake Ginninderra

Recreational Area

Primary Contact (Swimming)

Secondary Contact (Boating)

Dulwa & Nengi Bamir Beaches
Diddams Cl. West

Open

Open

Bimbi Beach
Diddams Cl. East

Open

Open

Yerra Beach
MacDermott Pl. North

Open

Open

Bargang Beach
MacDermott Pl. Boat Ramp

Open

Open

Gummiuk Beach
Sea Scouts Beach

'No Swimming' Area

Open

John Knight Park

'No Swimming' Area

Open

Lake Tuggeranong

Recreational Area

Primary Contact (Swimming)

Secondary Contact (Boating)

Tuggeranong Town Park

Closed Blue Green Algae

Open

Nguru Beach
Mortimer Lewis Drive

Closed Blue Green Algae

Open

Ngadyung Beach
Florence Taylor Cres

Closed Blue Green Algae

Open

Lake Tuggeranong College

'No Swimming' Area

Open

Mundang Beach
Sea Scouts Beach

'No Swimming' Area

Open

Molonglo River

Recreational Area

Primary Contact (Swimming)

Secondary Contact (Boating)

Water Ski Boat Ramp

Closed
(Hazard alert)

Closed
(Hazard alert)

Canoe Area

Open

Open

Murrumbidgee River

Recreational Area

Primary Contact (Swimming)

Secondary Contact (Boating)

Pine Island

Closed Bacteria Alert

Open

Kambah Pool Beach

Closed Bacteria Alert

Open

Casuarina Sands

Closed Bacteria Alert

Open

Point Hut Crossing

Closed Bacteria Alert

Open

Uriarra Crossing

Closed Bacteria Alert

Open

Tharwa Bridge

Closed Bacteria Alert

Open

Uriarra West - Swamp Creek

Closed Bacteria Alert

Open

Paddy's River

Recreational Area

Primary Contact (Swimming)

Secondary Contact (Boating)

Murray's Corner

Closed Bacteria Alert

Open

Cotter River

Recreational Area

Primary Contact (Swimming)

Secondary Contact (Boating)

Campsite Swim Area

Closed Bacteria Alert

Open

Lake Burley Griffin

Lake Burley Griffin is managed by the National Capital Authority. Please visit their website for more details.

Bacteria

Bacterial water testing is undertaken at various sites in the ACT, to check for the potentially harmful group of bacteria known as Enterococci. From September to April each year, the ACT Health Protection Service tests water samples once a week.

Tests are performed weekly due to the increased likelihood of primary contact activities (which involve whole-body immersion, such as swimming, diving, waterskiing or windsurfing) being undertaken because of the warmer water during these months. Bacterial testing does not occur between May to August as water temperatures are considered too cold to undertake primary contact activities. Secondary contact activities (those that involve incidental or inadvertent water contact) are not generally affected by changes in water quality, therefore weekly testing of the water is not required in the colder months. If primary contact (immersion or if water is swallowed, inhaled or enters the nasal passages) accidentally occurs during secondary contact activities, please refer to the ACT Guidelines for Recreational Water Quality for advice on what to do. 

Bacteria levels are known to be higher after rainfall due to the quantity of material collecting in storm water pipes, grazing land and upstream water bodies between rain events. If there has been significant rainfall since the water samples were taken, TAMS may display the 'Area Closed to Primary Contact' sign as a precaution. However, please be aware that bacteria levels may be high after rainfall even if the 'Area Closed to Primary Contact' sign is not displayed.

Blue-green algae

The Environment Protection Authority conducts analysis of the water quality for blue-green algae, year-round, at various sites in the ACT. Blue-green algae can be dangerous through the cooler months as primary contact can occur when it washes ashore. Dogs have also been known to suffer ill effects from contact with blue-green algae at any time of the year, when running on beaches or swimming in the water. For more information on blue-green algae monitoring procedures and alert levels visit the Environment and Sustainable Development Directorate website.

Hazardous Conditions

  • Please note that members of the public are warned to be aware of cold water temperatures and submerged hazards. These are often difficult to observe from the shore. All care should be taken when entering and when in the water.
  • Severe storm events and other emergencies may result in the closure of lakes and rivers.
  • Ensure you check the sign posts at each recreational area before entering the water. Do not enter the water if sign posts warn of dangerous conditions.

Important information about rivers

  • Rivers can be very dangerous due to fast flowing currents and submerged debris. 
  • River conditions may change rapidly, particularly during and following heavy rains. 
  • Warning signage is displayed at the Cotter River and Murrumbidgee River recreation areas when water temperatures drop below 14 degrees Celsius and/or when the water level exceeds 1.95m (measured at Lobbs Hole). These conditions are not safe for swimming.
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