About EPA Beach Report
EPA’s role is to regulate pollution in Victoria. EPA has a role in monitoring and reporting bacterial water quality in the Bay.
Each day of summer EPA issues forecasts for water quality at 36 bay beaches. The forecasts are reported here, on the Beach Report website. You can also follow Beach Report on Twitter @EPABeachReport.
The service from the first day of summer to the Labour Day long weekend in March helps you make decisions about where you can safely swim.
Forecasts, updated twice a day on this website, are based on beach monitoring data (eg. is a beach more prone to poor water quality because it is close to a drain), predicted weather conditions, weekly samples, pollution and other events such as algal blooms and fish deaths.
What do the forecasts mean?
Beaches are issued with either a ‘good’, ‘fair’, ‘poor’ or ‘unacceptable’ rating. The forecast advice for these is as follows:
- Good - Forecast water quality is suitable for swimming
- Fair - Forecast water quality may not be suitable for swimming
- Poor - Forecast water quality is not suitable for swimming
- Unacceptable - Testing has confirmed that water quality is not suitable for swimming.
What does an unacceptable forecast mean?
An unacceptable forecast simply means testing has been undertaken at a particular beach and results confirm that water quality may not be safe for human health, making it unsuitable swimming.
At this time, EPA issues an unacceptable water quality alert on the website, Twitter and through the media. This information is also provided to the council responsible for the beach. The council will put up signs to tell the public that water quality is unacceptable due to high bacterial levels, and not suitable for swimming.
The forecast says the water is good but the water looks murky?
Forecasts, like the weather, are based on beach monitoring data (i.e. is a beach more prone to poor water quality because of its proximity to a drain), the predicted weather conditions, weekly samples, pollution and naturally occurring events such as algal blooms and fish kills.
A forecast is predictive. If something doesn’t look right, use your judgment and avoid swimming.
EPA advises not to swim near stormwater or river outlets 24-48 hours after rain or if there are signs of pollution such as discoloured water, debris or oil and scum.
Checklist for water quality:
- What is the water clarity like?
- Are stormwater drains still flowing?
- Is the local creek/river running high?
- Is there an odour coming from the water?
- Is there litter or debris on the water’s edge indicating recent stormwater inflows?
Water quality can be affected by things other than bacterial levels. Algal blooms, pollution events and fish deaths can occur at the bay’s beaches and impact water quality. As these events are unpredictable they can’t be forecast in the same way as bacterial levels. When these events occur EPA investigates and the information is then incorporated in Beach Report’s forecasts, supported by additional information on the Beach Report website and on Twitter.
For suspected algal blooms, pollution events and fish deaths call EPA’s Pollution Hotline 1300 EPA VIC (1300 372 842).
Can develop in the days or weeks after heavy rain, particularly during periods of warm, sunny and calm weather. While algal blooms in the bay are rarely harmful to human health, if the water looks murky or discoloured, avoid contact. Contact with algae may cause skin irritation. If contact does occur, wash with clean water.
Algal blooms are made up of tiny, floating marine plants. Blue-green algae, like those that occur in Victoria’s lakes, dams and rivers are uncommon in the salty marine waters of Port Phillip Bay.
The Victorian community plays an important role in protecting the environment. EPA relies on the community to report incidents of pollution, environmental hazard or other activities potentially harmful to the environment.
Pollution events can include sewer, oil or chemical spills which can all negatively impact water quality. EPA investigates these events. Report pollution to EPA providing information that includes: the time of the event, whether you’ve seen it before, what you can see, smell, the location and your contact details.
Deaths of large numbers of fish – including eels and stingrays – are reported in Victorian waterways from time to time. The cause can relate to a change in water quality, algal blooms, pollution or disease. They may also be the result of commercial fishing activity.
Public reports of fish deaths can be made to EPA. If possible, provide the following information: location of the incident, the waterway, whether fish are dead or just affected, the approximate number of dead fish and whether they are fresh or decomposing, whether other fauna are affected and the condition of the waterway (flow, colour, odour etc).
Last updated 8 March 2013