Water quality in our lakes, ponds and rivers


The ACT Government regularly monitors Canberra’s lakes, ponds and rivers for changes in water quality. This includes bacteriablue-green algae and other potentially hazardous conditions such as flooding.

We also look at long-term trends in general water quality.

The ACT Guidelines for Recreational Water Quality provide the framework for how we check if the water is safe for recreational use. This is divided into two categories: primary and secondary contact recreation.

Recreational areas may be closed for primary and/or secondary contact if there are spikes in the levels of bacteria and/or blue-green algae.

Before you enter the water, always check the signposts located in recreational areas across Canberra’s lakes and rivers. You should also always assess the water for any changes in conditions or potential hazards.

Check the table below for current safety advice.

Primary contact recreation

This involves whole-body contact in which the entire body or the face and trunk are frequently immersed or the face is frequently wet by spray. It is likely some water will be swallowed, inhaled, or come into contact with ears, nasal passages, mucous membranes or cuts in the skin. Examples include swimming, diving, waterskiing and windsurfing.

Secondary contact recreation

This may involve incidental contact in which only the limbs are regularly wet and where greater contact is unusual. Examples include boating, fishing, canoeing and rowing. There may be a risk of accidental immersion, such as slipping into the water.

Current advice - updated 22 February 2024

Dog owner hazard warning

Water quality sampling for primary contact is based on the human body and not applicable for domestic animals.

As pets may drink the water, they are at a higher risk of exposure to bacteria or blue-green algae.

There are designated dog swimming areas where pets are allowed to swim. Before you allow your pet to enter the water always check the signposts. If no signs are present, assess the water for any changes in conditions or potential hazards. Please see the recreation with my dog page for more details.

View the water quality overview map.

Lake Ginninderra

Recreational area

Primary contact (Swimming)

Secondary contact (Boating)

Dulwa & Nengi Bamir Beaches
Diddams Cl. West (view map)

Closed - blue-green algae alert (high alert level)

Open

Bimbi Beach
Diddams Cl. East (view map)

Closed - blue-green algae alert (high alert level) and bacteria alert

Open

Yerra Beach
MacDermott Pl. North (view map)

Closed - blue-green algae alert (high alert level) and bacteria alert

Open

Bargang Beach
MacDermott Pl. Boat Ramp (view map)

Closed - blue-green algae alert (high alert level) and bacteria alert

Open

Gummiuk Beach
Sea Scouts Beach (view map)

No swimming area

Open

John Knight Park (view map)

No swimming area

Open

Lake Tuggeranong

Recreational area

Primary contact (Swimming)

Secondary contact (Boating)

Tuggeranong Town Park
(view map)

Closed - blue-green algae alert (medium alert level)

Open

Nguru Beach
Mortimer Lewis Drive (view map)

Closed - blue-green algae alert (medium alert level)

Open

Ngadyung Beach
Florence Taylor Cres (view map)

Closed - blue-green algae alert (medium alert level)

Open

Lake Tuggeranong College (view map)

No swimming area

Open

Mundang Beach
Sea Scouts Beach (view map)

No swimming area

Open

Molonglo River

Recreational area

Primary contact (Swimming)

Secondary contact (Boating)

Water Ski Boat Ramp (view map)

Open

Open

Canoe Area (view map)

N/A

Open

Murrumbidgee River

Recreational area

Primary contact (Swimming)

Secondary contact (Boating)

Casuarina Sands (view map)

Open

Open

Uriarra East & West (view map)

Open

Open

Swamp Creek Beach (view map)

Open

Open

Pine Island (view map)

Open

Open

Kambah Pool (view map)

Open

Open

Point Hut Crossing (view map)

Closed - bacteria alert

Open

Tharwa Bridge (view map)

Open

Open

Paddy's River

Recreational area

Primary contact (Swimming)

Secondary contact (Boating)

Murray's Corner (view map)

Closed - bacteria alert

Open

Cotter River

Recreational area

Primary contact (Swimming)

Secondary contact (Boating)

Cotter Campground (view map)

Closed - bacteria alert

Open

Non-tested dog swimming areas

View dog swimming areas online via the dog exercise areas map.

Recreational area

Dog swimming

Yerrabi Pond, Benaroon Circuit

Not tested

Point Hut Pond, main carpark

Not tested

North End of Lake Tuggeranong

Not tested

Yarralumla, Brown St Beach area

Not tested

Weston park, end of Weston park road

Not tested

Lake Burley Griffin

Lake Burley Griffin is managed by the National Capital Authority. Please visit the NCA website for more details.

Bacteria

From September to April, the ACT Health Protection Service tests water samples once a week to check for potentially harmful Enterococci bacteria.

This is because more people are using our waterways in the warmer months for primary contact activities like swimming.

We do not test the water between May and August as it is too cold for primary contact activities.

Secondary contact activities are not generally affected by changes in water quality. As a result, weekly testing is not required in the colder months.

There is a risk of accidentally making primary contact during secondary contact activities. If this happens, please see the ACT Guidelines for Recreational Water Quality for advice.

Bacteria levels are higher after rainfall. This is due to the quantity of material collecting in storm water pipes, grazing land and upstream bodies of water. If there has been a large amount of rain since the last testing, we may close the area as a precaution.

Please be aware that bacteria levels may be high after rainfall even if the area is not closed.

Blue-green algae

The Environment Protection Authority tests the water for blue-green algae at various sites in the ACT all year.

Blue-green algae can be dangerous in the cooler months as primary contact can occur when it washes ashore.

Dogs can also suffer ill effects from contact with blue-green algae at any time of the year, when running on beaches or swimming in the water.

Hazardous conditions

  • Please be aware of cold water temperatures and submerged hazards. These are often difficult to observe from the shore. Take care when entering and when in the water.
  • Severe storm events and other emergencies may result in the closure of lakes and rivers.
  • Always check the signposts at each recreational area before entering the water. Do not enter the water if signposts warn of dangerous conditions.

Important information about rivers

  • Rivers can be very dangerous due to fast flowing currents and submerged debris.
  • River conditions may change rapidly, particularly during and following heavy rain.