Water quality monitoring

Brisbane City Council monitors the quality of the waterways in Brisbane to ensure the public is not exposed to unnecessary health risks. By providing the public with water quality results and information, residents can make informed decisions about where, when and how they can use the waterway.

Monitoring results provide an indication of the risks to human health in Brisbane's river, waterways and bay due to microbial contamination. The presence of microbial contamination is common in urban waterways, particularly after heavy rainfall. The level of microbial contamination can vary on a daily basis.

Council monitors the quality of the water at 11 sites in the Brisbane River and sections of Moreton Bay, which have high rates of recreational use. Monitoring results are published online and warning signs are put in place where required.

Monitoring since 2011 has shown that a trend for high enterococci results coincides with rainfall and stormwater runoff into our waterways. Based on this understanding, Council has reconciled its monitoring program at recreational sites in the Brisbane River and Moreton Bay to monthly in summer and bi-monthly during the cooler winter months.

Due to the greater variation in historic enterococci results in both Cabbage Tree Creek and Oxley Creek, Council will continue to undertake a more frequent monitoring program in these waterways. As always, Council recommends that contact with waterways be limited following heavy rain. Further information for safe use of our waterways can be found on the Healthy Waterways website.

Council is also undertaking further studies in some Brisbane waterways to determine the causes of fluctuating microbial contamination.

Read the frequently asked questions about water quality.

If you have any health concerns about being in contact with water, particularly after a flood, you can visit the Queensland Health website or phone 13 HEALTH for advice.

Monitoring results

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View the full list of recent monitoring sites and the results:

Note: following the January 2013 Australia Day weekend wet weather event, Council temporarily expanded the regular program of water quality testing from 31 January 2013 to 28 February 2013 to include weekly testing of 27 sites. This extra testing was undertaken to monitor the effects of the severe weather event on water quality.

Council always recommends that contact with waterways be limited following heavy rain. Heavy rain is known to increase the potential of contamination within the city's waterways. Summer storms and sudden downpours can lead to increased run-off across our streets, parks and catchments and often leads to sewer overflows, resulting in an increase in bacterial contamination of our waterways.

Recommended activities on Brisbane's waterways

If you enjoy activities in and on Brisbane’s waterways, you need to be aware of possible water quality issues. Council suggests you check the latest water quality monitoring results to stay informed and take heed of Council’s advisory signs. Sometimes certain activities may not be recommended as they could pose a health risk.

You should always avoid swimming near stormwater pipe outlets.

Signs about water quality

You may see Council signs about water quality where people commonly use or access the waterway, for example near boat ramps, pontoons and popular parks along the river and bay.

There are two types of water quality signs:

General information sign

The sign says: To protect your health we want you to know this waterway can be affected by high levels of bacteria at certain times, especially after rainfall. You are advised to avoid contact with the water during and after heavy rainfall.

Activities that should be avoided during and after rain include:

  • swimming
  • jet skiing
  • kite surfing
  • any activity where you may swallow water and have your face frequently wet

Temporary warning sign

If water quality testing confirms high levels of bacteria in the water, temporary warning signs will be installed in the affected location.

The sign says: WARNING - high levels of bacteria which can be harmful to health have been recorded in this waterway. You are advised to avoid contact with the water.

If a warning sign is in place, it means you should avoid contact with the water. Activities where you will be immersed in the water, or even have limbs wet, are not recommended.

The following activities are not recommended when a warning sign is in place:

  • swimming
  • jet skiing
  • kite surfing
  • wading
  • rowing
  • fishing
  • activities where your limbs get wet regularly

The warning signs are removed when test results return to acceptable levels.

The enterococci trigger levels for installing and removing the warning signs are based on those in the National Guidelines for Managing Risks in Recreational Waters 2008.