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Collaborative water quality website goes live

19 March 2014

Collaborative water quality website goes live

Otago Regional Council (ORC) is part of a new website, Land, Air, Water Aotearoa (LAWA), launched this week displaying the results of water quality monitoring for rivers throughout the country.

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 water quality and trend information from all of the country’s freshwater quality monitoring sites (more than 1100 sites), giving the public access to the results in one place and in a common, easy-to-understand format.

ORC chairman Stephen Woodhead said the council was pleased to be part of this initiative, which aims to create a better connection between communities and their local waterways.

“Our freshwater resource is a vital asset for everyone. It’s important for people to be able to see and understand the state of a particular river or catchment and how it may be affected by what’s going on around it,” Mr Woodhead said.

ORC measures a range of parameters when assessing water quality, including E. coli, nitrogen, phosphorous, and water clarity. By using LAWA, comparisons can be made between sites, catchments, or region around the country.

The development of LAWA was supported by the Tindall Foundation, a family philanthropic 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.

“The fact that the quality of some of our waterways is on the decline, is horrifying,” Sir Stephen said.

“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 whether or not water quality is improving in any New Zealand river.”

“This is about gathering information to help preserve our rivers and fresh waterways as well as safeguarding our ecosystems, our clean green image, and protecting our beaches,” Sir Stephen said.

In another NZ first, ORC has recently revised the Otago Water Plan to include water quality limits for Otago waterways. These aim to maintain or improve water quality in Otago rivers, lakes and aquifers, and their suitability for recreational use and food gathering.

Mr Woodhead said LAWA would provide useful benchmarks enabling everyone to see which rivers were doing well and those where water quality required their attention.

“With so many factors affecting water quality, there is no single solution for improving it. Achieving good water quality in rivers, lakes, and aquifers is the responsibility of all of us,’’ he said.

“Long-term partnerships between all stakeholders are the best way to drive sustainable changes and LAWA is a great information resource to support this work,” Mr Woodhead said.

LAWA can be accessed at www.lawa.org.nz.


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