Waterways safety

Caution – heavy rainfall affects recreational water quality
There is a strong link between rainfall events and the health of our waterways. Rainfall often collects pollutants from streets, gardens and farms, before it is flushed into our creeks, rivers and oceans via the stormwater system. Stormwater runoff can increase bacterial levels in the water and make it unsafe for swimming.

As a precaution, always avoid swimming:

  • or at least one day after heavy rain at open beaches
  • for at least 3 days after heavy rain at rivers, lakes and estuaries
  • in water that looks discoloured, murky, or smells unpleasant
  • near stormwater drains.

For the latest information and advice regarding beach closures and water quality issues visit City alerts.

Tips for safe swimming

Follow these tips and always use your best judgement to decide if it’s safe to enter a waterway:

  • Avoid swimming near stormwater drains
  • Do not swim in water that looks discoloured, murky, or smells unpleasant. Look out for signs of pollution before entering waterways including discoloured or strong smelling water and floating litter or debris. Also check for algae blooms such as discolouration and/or floating scum.
  • Always follow advice on water quality. When pollution is detected in a water body, we will post information on this website. We may install health warning signs to alert the public not to use the water. Always follow this advice and do not go swimming.
  • Avoid swimming if you have an open wound or infection. If you have an open wound or infection and go swimming in polluted water, your infection may worsen. Reduce your risk and do not swim.

Council swimming enclosures

Council provides swimming enclosures located alongside playgrounds, barbecues and shopping facilities. These areas are popular with children and those who prefer calm natural swimming waters.

Residents and visitors are reminded to follow this advice when using the swimming enclosures:

  • supervise children at all times
  • keep clear of enclosure boundaries and underwater net
  • take care when entering, as depth will vary with tide
  • do not swim alone
  • be aware that marine creatures may exist within the enclosure
  • do not run or dive off floating pontoons.


  • It is NOT recommended to swim in the city's canal systems due to the presence of dangerous marine animals, such as bull sharks.

Creeks, lakes and rivers

Swimming in creeks, lakes, and rivers is fun, but there are hidden dangers, which can cause serious injuries. Be careful! It is not the same as swimming in a Council swimming enclosure or a pool.

  • Seek local advice before you swim – creeks, lakes, and rivers can hide dangers such as submerged logs and rocks and unexpectedly strong currents, especially after rain.
  • Check the current and the water quality before entering the water. After a lot of rain, the water quality may be an issue due to runoff and debris from surrounding land.
  • Never dive or jump into any waterhole. You could seriously injure yourself if the water is too shallow or there are submerged logs and rocks.
  • Stay away from waterfalls to avoid slipping.
  • Beware of boats using the waterway.
  • Avoid swimming near boat ramps or in boating areas.
  • Look out for other dangerous marine animals.


Please see Lifeguards & beach safety for tips to keep safe at our beautiful beaches.

Recreational water quality

Where do we monitor?

We monitor 25 popular recreational water locations within the Gold Coast. Locations include a combination of open beaches, creeks, estuaries, enclosed lakes and swimming enclosures.

When do we monitor?

We complete routine monitoring on a rotating roster every 18 days.

What do we monitor?

Enterococci are monitored by the City and across South East Queensland to indicate the level of microbes in waterways that could pose a risk to human health.

Enterococci is the recommended indicator for the detection of faecal contamination in waterways.

Enterococci are present in high numbers in polluted waterways. Laboratory tests can detect their presence within 24-48 hours.

As well as monitoring for contamination in waterways, we also measure parameters such as pH, dissolved oxygen and salinity.

What are enterococci?

Enterococci are bacteria found in the intestines of humans and warm-blooded animals. They are excreted in faeces and indicate if faecal matter and pollution is present in a waterway.

Enterococci do not generally cause illness but are associated with the presence of pathogens which do, such as:

  • harmful bacteria
  • viruses
  • parasites.

What are the National Guidelines?

The National Health and Medical Research Council released the Guidelines for Managing Risks in Recreational Waters (National Guidelines).

These guidelines help local governments manage recreational waterways as safely as possible and protect human health. They provide a framework to assess, manage and reduce the risks associated with recreational waterway use.

Our water quality monitoring is undertaken in line with these Guidelines.

What can you do to help?

For advice on how you can help keep our waterways healthy visit Healthy water environments.

Report water pollution

To report a sewage spill or other pollution incidents in recreational waterways please visit Report a problem – Pollution.