Grim beach warning for millions of Aussies as temps soar: 'I wouldn't swim there'

Heavy rain has left many popular beaches unsafe for swimming with concerns about a surge of pollution and sewerage.

With temperatures set to soar in some parts of eastern Australia this weekend, starting from today, millions of swimmers looking to cool off at the beach have been urged to reconsider.

Thanks to the wild weather and heavy rain experienced across NSW this week, a surge of sewerage and pollution has swept across popular beaches and ocean pools, prompting health warnings for swimmers.

Sydnersiders have sweat through near-record humidity levels with a hot and sunny day forecasted for Friday. Temperatures are expected to hit a high of 28C, with the mercury rising to 31C in Penrith, in the city’s west with temperatures increasing through the weekend.

large crowds at Sydney beach.
Millions of Aussies are being warned to stay away from popular beaches this weekend. Source: Getty

But while the sun is shining with no sign of further rain, it can take up to three days for the water to clear after the storms so some beaches should be avoided with the risk of getting sick.

"A large number of swimming sites in the Sydney and Central Coast regions may be impacted by stormwater pollution today," NSW government's BeachWatch warned on Friday. Waters are tested for bacteria known as enterococci to determine faecal contamination. Exposure to the bacteria can cause infection which can lead to nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and fever.

Which beaches are contaminated?

On Friday morning, beach warnings were in place at more than 25 beaches that are likely contaminated according to the latest official BeachWatch forecast. The contamination zone stretches from Bateau Bay on the Central Coast to Bundeena in Sydney’s south, with the worst-affected area between Narrabeen and Cronulla, with swimmers being warned.

Map from Beachwatch showing polluted beaches.
Several beaches and pools around Sydney are likely contaminated, according to Beachwatch NSW. Source: Beachwatch NSW

Professor Ian Wright, a water researcher, warned against swimming at Bronte Beach this weekend which likely has a slower water cycle than other popular swimming spots in Sydney. Other locations such as Bright Le Sands Baths and Tamarama Beach have a ‘pollution possible’ warning. Meanwhile Cabarita Beach and many baths have a 'pollution likely' warning currently in place.

"If I was going to swim at a beach in Sydney, I would probably be avoiding Bronte, based on the advice BeachWatch gave today," he told Yahoo News Australia. "Their advice for Bronte is pollution is possible. So I'm pretty cautious at the moment. I would not swim there".

Enclosed waters are most at risk of contamination the Western Sydney University lecturer explained. He advised Aussies to steer clear of swimming spots around the harbour or at Botany Bay and Pittwater.

"Enclosed waters take a lot longer to have all contamination from the rain flush out. Whereas if you're on the coast, two tides a day of saltwater, it's probably going to be okay," he said. "I would go down the road to Cronulla or Bondi instead".

Swimmers urged to check water before jumping in

For those wanting to try their luck this weekend, swimmers are urged to look out for discoloured water or bad odours before jumping in. "If it smells crook and it looks discoloured, I would probably avoid swimming there," Professor Wright said.

BeachWatch also advised people looking to cool down to "check for signs of pollution such as flowing drains, open lagoons, odours, litter and debris".

You can monitor beaches in your area here.

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