Regional Swimming Targets for Otago



In 2017, Government amended the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management (NPSFM) to reflect people’s desire for our rivers and lakes to be swimmable.

National targets were set so that as a nation we’re working toward 80% of specified rivers and lakes to be swimmable by 2030, and 90% by 2040.

In Otago, 82% of our rivers and lakes are swimmable (as defined by the NPSFM). That said, we’re not going letting that success get in the way of making more progress! We’ve set our own regional targets and are working toward making sure 90% of rivers and 98% of lakes are swimmable by 2030, and 95% of rivers and 100% of lakes are swimmable by 2040.



Regional and National swimming targets are shown in the table below:

Percent of specified rivers and lakes* swimmable – 2017 and targets for 2030 & 2040




2017 (modelled ORC data)



2030 (Nationwide Target)


2030 (ORC Target)



2040 (Nationwide Target)


2040 (ORC Target)



*specified rivers are 4th order and above, and specified lakes have a perimeter of 1.5km or greater. For further explanation see Appendix 6 of the NPSFM.

Note: swimmable is defined in the NPSFM by the lowest rating for rivers and lakes on the E. coli and cyanobacteria (if applicable) attributes from Appendix 2 of the NPSFM.


How are we going to do this?

These targets can only be achieved with changes to poor effluent management practices on some farms, and improvements to stormwater and wastewater infrastructure and management in urban areas.

In an ideal world 100% of our rivers and lakes would be safe enough to swim in, but to make that dream a reality we have to put in the time, work, and money to ensure that not only are our waterways safe but that they stay that way.

Projects are underway to improve both rural and urban infrastructure and management affecting our waterways. These include:

  • Improving compliance and enforcement
  • Improvements for reducing point source discharges
  • The Good Water Project
  • Working with catchment groups
  • Urban water quality strategy
  • Improving conditions of at-risk catchments
  • Review of the surface water quality monitoring


Further information:

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