Hobart area residents are fortunate in having easy access to a variety of safe, sandy beaches within 20 minutes of the CBD. This is increasingly rare for a capital city and adds greatly to our quality of life. Swimming and other water sports such as small boat sailing, rowing, windsurfing and water-skiing are also enjoyed at sites up and down the estuary.

Beach Watch tests water quality at 18 swimming sites around the Derwent, while Bay Watch monitors at 21 bays and foreshore reserves. Weekly results are published below, and on the DEP Facebook page. Based on five years of data, the majority of Derwent beaches and bays have been classified as having good or fair water quality.

However swimming in the Derwent is not recommended for several days after heavy rain, and never in the vicinity of stormwater pipes or urban rivulets.

Featured beach Little Sandy Bay Beach

Little Sandy Bay Beach

A popular swimming beach – and for good reason. Close to town, consistently clean water, near parks, BBQ facilities and ice cream shops!

Beach Watch 16 January 2018

Ref Location Long-term Weekly Result
1 New Norfolk (Fitzgerald Park) Good Pass (<10) ✓
2 Windermere Bay Beach Good Pass (30) ✓
3 Nutgrove Beach (east) Good Pass (<10) ✓
4 Nutgrove Beach (west)
See note below
Poor Pass (10) ✕
5 Little Sandy Bay (south) Good Pass (<10) ✓
6 Little Sandy Bay (north) Good Pass (86) ✓
7 Hinsby Beach Good Pass (<10) ✓
8 Taroona Beach Good Pass (20) ✓
9 Kingston Beach (north) Fair Pass (<10) ✓
10 Kingston Beach (mid) Good Pass (31) ✓
11 Kingston Beach (south) Fair Pass (<10) ✓
12 Blackmans Bay (mid) Good Pass (<10) ✓
13 Blackmans Bay (south) Fair Pass (<10) ✓
14 Bellerive Beach Fair Pass (<10) ✓
15 Howrah Beach (east) Good Pass (<10) ✓
16 Howrah Beach (mid) Good Pass (10) ✓
17 Howrah Beach (west) Good Pass (20) ✓
18 Little Howrah Beach Good Pass (<10) ✓

Most importantly, DO NOT swim for several days after heavy rain or at any time near stormwater pipes and rivulets.

How to read the results

  • Tick OK for swimming
  • Tick OK for swimming, but check weekly result and long-term grade
  • Question mark Retest required or data not available, check long-term grade
  • Cross Swimming not recommended
A special note in regards to Nutgrove Beach (west)

This site has had a history of poor water quality related to run-off from a large stormwater pipe associated with Lipscombe Rivulet. TasWater and Hobart City Council have recently completed a number of investigations to track the source of contamination. These have included several unlicensed sewer-to-stormwater connections from residences, as well as aging pipe infrastructure in some areas. These problems have been repaired, and monitoring is currently underway to confirm that there are no additional sources. In the meantime, however, it is recommended that swimming be avoided towards this end of the beach as a precautionary measure.

Understanding results + grades

Long-term grades (based on 5 years of monitoring)
  • GOOD Water quality is usually good for swimming.
  • FAIR Water quality is usually fair for swimming, but occasionally requires retesting.
  • POOR Swimming is not advised.
  • N/A Long-term grade not available (site has not been monitored for 5 years).
Weekly results
  • PASS OK for swimming.
  • RETEST Retest required, results not yet available.
  • FAIL Swimming not recommended.
  • N/A Result not available.
  • Numerical readings represent enterococci MPN (Most Probably Number) per 100 mL.

Bay Watch 16 January 2018

Ref Location Long-term Weekly Result
1 Old Beach Jetty Good Pass (<10) ✓
2 Elwick Bay Yacht Club Fair Pass (10) ✓
3 New Town Bay Good Pass (<10) ✓
4 Prince of Wales Bay Good Pass (10) ✓
5 Geilston Bay Good Pass (10) ✓
6 Lindisfarne Bay Good Pass (<10) ✓
7 Montagu Bay Good Pass (<10) ✓
8 Mid-River Swim Good Pass (<10) ✓
9 Hobart Rivulet (mouth) Poor Fail (171) ✕
10 Regatta Pavilion Good Pass (52) ✓
11 Victoria Dock Good Pass (<10) ✓
12 Waterman’s Dock Poor Pass (20) ✕
13 Brooke Street Pier Good Pass (<10) ✓
14 Sullivans Cove Good Pass (<10) ✓
15 Marieville Esplanade Poor Pass (135) ✕
16 Kangaroo Bay Good Pass (<10) ✓
17 Brown’s River Poor Pass (31) ✕
18 MONA jetty Good Pass (<10) ✓
19 Berriedale Bay, at MONA Fair Pass (51) ✓

Most importantly, DO NOT swim for several days after heavy rain or at any time near stormwater pipes and rivulets.

How to read the results

  • Tick OK for swimming
  • Tick OK for swimming, but check weekly result and long-term grade
  • Question mark Retest required or data not available, check long-term grade
  • Cross Swimming not recommended

Please note these locations are not designated swimming sites.

Understanding results + grades

Long-term grades (based on 5 years of monitoring)
  • GOOD Water quality is usually good for swimming.
  • FAIR Water quality is usually fair for swimming, but occasionally requires retesting.
  • POOR Swimming is not advised.
  • N/A Long-term grade not available (site has not been monitored for 5 years).
Weekly results
  • PASS OK for swimming.
  • FAIL Swimming not recommended.
  • N/A Result not available.
  • Numerical readings represent enterococci MPN (Most Probably Number) per 100 mL.

Important points

Has there been heavy rain in the past few days?

If so, avoid swimming in the Derwent River for several days as beaches are likely to be polluted by storm water. Check back regularly for the latest results.

For swimming event organisers and participants

  • Avoid using sites with ‘poor’ water quality classifications.
  • Develop water quality contingency plans in the event of heavy rain or poor test results.
  • Inform swimming event participants about water quality so that they can decide whether to swim.
  • For more specific information or health advice contact the Department of Health and Human Services by calling the Public Health Hotline on 1800 671 738, or your local council Environmental Health Officer.

What you can do?

  • Pick up after your dog.
  • Don’t feed the ducks and geese.
  • Be aware of where and when you swim. Avoid swimming in the Derwent for several days after rain and don’t swim or allow children to play in or near stormwater drains or urban rivulets.

Further information

For sampling results for all sites, and further information about this program see the DEP’s latest Recreational Water Quality report.

Background to the program

Local councils, the Environmental Protection Authority and the Derwent Estuary Program collect water samples from 39 sites throughout the Derwent estuary each Tuesday from the start of December to the end of March.

All samples are analysed at the Public Health Laboratory (New Town) using the Enterolert method, which provides confirmed results within 24 hours of analysis. Results are typically reported between 24 and 48 hours after submission to the laboratory.

Sites are categorised as either Swimming Sites (Beach Watch) or Environmental Sites (Bay Watch):

  • The Swimming Sites are in locations where a significant number of people swim or conduct other primary contact recreation.
  • The Environmental Sites are not designated swimming sites, but are frequently used for secondary contact recreation, have been identified as potential sources of faecal contamination, or are sites associated with major swimming events, such as the Trans Derwent Swim.

Pathogens and health risks

Water contaminated by sewage and animal faeces may contain pathogenic micro-organisms (bacteria, viruses, protozoa) which pose a health hazard when the water is used for primary contact recreation, such as swimming. Infection may occur by swallowing, inhaling or by direct contact of contaminated water with ears, nasal passages, mucous membranes and cuts in the skin, which allow the pathogens to enter the body. The most common health conditions associated with primary contact recreation in contaminated water are gastrointestinal disorders, respiratory illnesses, eye, nose and throat infections and skin disorders.

Monitoring and guidelines

The Recreational Water Quality Guidelines for Tasmania were developed using the National Guidelines for Managing Risks in Recreational Water 2008. The Tasmanian guidelines adopt a three-tiered approach to classifying the long-term quality of a site based on available data. The tiers are:

  • Good: rolling 5-year 95th Hazen percentile value of < 200 enterococci MPN (Most Probably Number) per 100 mL.
  • Moderate: rolling 5-year 95th Hazen percentile value of 200–500 enterococci MPN per 100 mL.
  • Poor: rolling 5-year 95th Hazen percentile value of > 500 enterococci MPN per 100 mL. In this case, water at these sites is considered to be a threat to public health in the event of primary contact recreation, and the particular local council is required to advise the general public and to erect warning signs to this effect.

In addition to long-term site classification, trigger levels have been set to manage public exposure to episodic or emerging water quality issues. If a sample exceeds 140 MPN per 100 mL, the relevant authority is required to re-sample, and if two consecutive samples return a result above 280 MPN per 100 mL, the swimming site must be closed and the public notified. The beach may only be re-opened for primary contact recreation following agreement between the Director of Public Health and Council’s Authorised Officer.

For further information see the Tasmanian Recreational Water Quality Guidelines.