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Published: 2014-09-26 00:00:00

Waikato people are being encouraged to celebrate our region’s rivers this weekend and consider what they can do to improve water quality as part of World Rivers Day.

World Rivers Day, on Sunday 28 September, celebrates the world’s waterways and highlights the many values of rivers. 

“Compared to many places overseas our rivers are still in pretty good shape,” said Waikato Regional Council water quality scientist Bill Vant. “So while we’re lucky in many ways, we also need to think about stopping our rivers from declining, and how we can fix the ones that are already in a bad state. Everyone has a part to play. 

“There’s a huge amount of work being done across the region to protect our waterways.  Last year alone we helped fund more than 80km of fencing to protect around 67km of streambanks. The council also helped put 87,576 plants into the ground around waterways, covering almost 28ha,” Mr Vant said.

But there’s still more to be done. Ways people can support our rivers include:

  • adopting farming practices to reduce impacts on water quality – check out farmmenus.org.nz
  • getting involved in a major project to help restore and protect the health of the Waikato and Waipa rivers – sign up to receive Healthy Rivers Wai Ora News at www.waikatoregion.govt.nz/healthyrivers
  • taking action on the ground with others at makearipple.co.nz. 

From Sunday, the latest information on the Waikato region’s rivers, and other rivers throughout the country, will be available on New Zealand’s environmental reporting website Land, Air, Water, Aotearoa (LAWA). Visitors to the site – www.lawa.org.nz – will be able to access state and trend data from 2004 right up to 2013. 

One improved Waikato river on the website is the Ohinemuri River, which flows through Karangahake Gorge in the Waihou River catchment. 

The river is monitored near the Victoria Battery, downstream from Waihi town’s sewage discharge. Today the water there is clear, well-oxygenated and has relatively low concentrations of phosphorus and E.coli

“The phosphorus and E.coli. levels in this river have improved markedly over the last 20 years,” said Mr Vant. 

In 2005 the sewage treatment plant was upgraded, resulting in marked reductions in the phosphorus and E.coli discharged to the river, together with a halving of the load of nitrogen.  

From 2003 to 2012, phosphorus levels in the river fell at an overall rate of 14 per cent a year. E.coli levels in 2010-12 were about seven times lower than they were in 2003-05.