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Surge in water data for World Rivers Day

Surge in water data for World Rivers Day

To mark World Rivers Day this Sunday, regional councils are releasing their latest water quality data on the Land, Air, Water, Aotearoa website, which this year includes lake quality monitoring.

Launched in March 2014, www.lawa.org.nz began reporting water quality results at 1100 river sites. Since then, it has expanded into coastal bathing beaches and water allocation, tripling the number of monitoring sites for which data is available.

From this weekend, users will also be able access water quality data for monitored lakes, providing a more complete picture of the quality of New Zealand’s freshwater.

Stephen Woodhead, chair of the regional sector group of Local Government New Zealand, said that public debate showed that rivers and lakes were important to New Zealanders and regional councils took their role in water stewardship very seriously.

“World Rivers day is about increasing public awareness of the impact we have on our freshwater resources. LAWA is a world-first in terms of national water reporting and we hope it will create greater understanding of the state of rivers and lakes and encourage people to make good choices about how they use them.”

One of the main indicators used by LAWA to describe a lake’s quality is the Trophic Level Indicator (TLI). Of the 97 lakes with TLI data*, the water quality of a third of the lakes is classed as ‘good’ or ‘very good’. Fourteen of the lakes monitored were classed as having very poor water quality.

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Bay of Plenty Regional Council science manager Rob Donald said the Trophic Level Indicator (TLI) was based on four parameters: water clarity, chlorophyll content, total phosphorus and total nitrogen.

“Lake quality is directly impacted by the way the surrounding land is used,” said Mr Donald.

“Lakes are sensitive to high levels of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus, which can cause excessive weed growth and algal blooms. The more nutrients in the water, the higher the TLI score. A higher TLI score typically means poorer water quality.”

Mr Woodhead said councils, in partnership with their communities and central government, are working hard to improve water quality where it is compromised.

“New Zealand has some beautiful and iconic rivers and lakes that we all enjoy and we need to look after them,” said Mr Woodhead.

“As regional councils have become more aware of the effect nutrients have on freshwater, there has been a move by councils, government and land users both rural and urban to review and improve practices to reduce the impacts.”

“For example, eight lakes are part of the Fresh Start for Freshwater Clean- Up Fund, with more than $240 million of council, community and government funding going towards improving the water quality and biodiversity of these lakes.”

LAWA was launched in 2014 and is a collaboration between New Zealand’s 16 regional and unitary councils, the Cawthron Institute and the Ministry for the Environment, and has been supported by the Tindall Foundation. The website displays data on river and lake quality, bathing beach and real-time flow, rainfall and groundwater data.

LAWA will also contribute to a new national environmental reporting regime being designed by the Ministry for the Environment and Statistics New Zealand.

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

ENDS

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