Waikato Regional Council is part of a new website launched this week displaying the results of water quality monitoring for rivers throughout the country.
The website, Land, Air, Water Aotearoa (LAWA), is a collaboration between New Zealand’s 16 regional and unitary councils, the Ministry for the Environment (MFE), Cawthron Institute and Massey University.
A New Zealand first, LAWA displays state and trend information for over 1100 freshwater monitoring sites, giving the public access to all of the country’s water quality monitoring in one place and in a common, easy to understand format.
“We’re pleased to be part of this initiative which adds to the work we’re currently doing to create a better connection between communities and their local waterways,” said Waikato Regional Council chairperson Paula Southgate.
“Freshwater is a vital asset to our country and it’s important that the public can see and understand for themselves the state of a particular river or catchment and how it may be affected by what’s going on around it.”
The council measures a range of parameters when assessing water quality, including E. coli, nitrogen, phosphorus, water clarity and pH. By using LAWA, you can see how a particular site, catchment or region compares to others around the country. You can also see if the site is improving, stable or degrading.
Water quality is measured at more than 100 sites in the Waikato region. Over the past 20 years, water quality was largely stable in two-thirds of the records. Some 16 per cent of records showed important improvements, while 18 per cent showed important deteriorations. Improvements were common in records of ammonia, while deteriorations were common in records of nitrogen and turbidity.
The development of LAWA was supported by the Tindall Foundation, a philanthropic family foundation. Co-founder Sir Stephen Tindall was keen to see the vision of LAWA realised, after experiencing difficulty in accessing clear information about the state of New Zealand rivers.
“I have a personal interest in this project because I love swimming and love our waterways. I spend every summer holiday with my family around the water swimming, fishing and kayaking,” said Sir Stephen.
“To me, the fact that the quality of our waterways is on the decline, is a horrifying thought. As a family foundation we were keen to fund the LAWA website so that information on water quality is easily accessible to the public. And, by collecting data, we can identify problems early and see if water quality is improving or not. Then we can see how we can help, and encourage others to do the same. This is about preserving our rivers and fresh waterways for the future to ensure the safeguarding of our ecosystems our clean green image and to protect our beaches too.”
LAWA also allows people to share information about what’s happening in waterways.
“Everyone has a responsibility in looking after our rivers and we want people to be able to use LAWA to tell us and others what’s going on in their local waterway,” said Ms Southgate.
“People can use the site to share news, report pollution or promote river-related events such as clean-up days or riparian plantings.”
Work is underway on developing LAWA’s next modules which will be water quantity and coastal water quality.
LAWA can be accessed at www.lawa.org.nz.