Horizons 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 is a world first. It seeks to create a better connection between communities and their local waterways,” said Horizons chief executive, Michael McCartney.
“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 technology involved is also exciting as LAWA is more than just a website, it is an opportunity for people to collaborate, share news and events and keep up to date with the health of their rivers locally, regionally and nationally.”
Horizons measures a range of parameters when assessing water quality, including E. coli, nitrogen, phosphorous, 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.
In the Horizons Region there are positive signs with a number of monitoring sites showing improving trends for one or more of these parameters. Perhaps the most significant improvement are the statistics for dissolved reactive phosphorus in which 79% of 29 sites have shown an improving trend over a monitoring period of at least nine years. Oxidised Nitrogen has also been monitored with 21% showing an improving trend over 28 sites and 24% of 29 sites have shown improvement for E-coli. However it is not all good news with some parameters showing a declining trend with 11% of sites declining for Ammonia Nitrogen while 4% are improving.
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 Tindall.
“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,” explained Mr McCartney.
“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.