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More work needs to be done to improve our waterways - ES

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Water quality monitoring results for Southland rivers have similar trends to the national picture with some indicators showing encouraging signs and some showing degrading trends.

The Land, Air, Water, Aotearoa (LAWA) released a national picture of river quality trends on Sunday (22/09), World Rivers Day. The National River Water Quality 10-year Trend Summary (2009-2018) brings together results from more than 1,400 river monitoring sites across New Zealand, including 97 sites in Southland, to show how our waterways are tracking.

The LAWA national trends are displayed in five trend categories (very likely improving, likely improving, indeterminate, likely degrading and very likely degrading) across nine widely recognised water quality indicators (turbidity, total nitrogen, total oxidised nitrogen, E. coli and the Macroinvertebrate Invertebrate Community Index, clarity, ammoniacal nitrogen, total phosphorus, and dissolved reactive phosphorus). The trends present a high-level national picture of river water quality changes over the past decade, and show a mix of improving and degrading sites.

Nationally there are both improving and degrading sites for all indicators over the last 10 years. Amongst the most certain water quality trends, degradations were more common for turbidity, total nitrogen, total oxidised nitrogen, E. coli and the Macroinvertebrate Invertebrate Community Index, whereas improvements were more common for clarity, ammoniacal nitrogen, total phosphorus, and dissolved reactive phosphorus.

Southland results align closely with the national trends, showing that total nitrogen, total oxidised nitrogen and the Macroinvertebrate Invertebrate Community Index are degrading, however, improvements are seen for turbidity, clarity, ammoniacal nitrogen, total phosphorus, dissolved reactive phosphorus, and E. coli - which is better than the aggregated national results.

Environment Southland science manager Dr Elaine Moriarty said the release provided a great opportunity to review 10 years of hard work by the team in all kinds of weather to collect the data from our rivers. "I acknowledge the changes that many people are making on their land to ensure we get these improvements in water quality that we all want to see."

"I’m pleased to see that there are some improvements such as in E. coli but also acknowledge that many of our popular swimming sites still have elevated levels of E. coli."

Summer monitoring of swimming sites is an important part of our overall monitoring programme. "You can check our latest water quality results for your favourite swimming spots in the ‘Can I swim here’ section on LAWA."

The situation shows that there is still a lot of work to do to maintain and improve water quality in Southland’s rivers. Environment Southland’s top priority is addressing water quality and quantity issues.

Our People, Water and Land programme is focused on this through the gathering of our communities’ values for water, establishing the Regional Forum to provide advice to Council and by supporting groups and sharing learnings from those getting in and making changes on-the-ground.

Environment Southland regularly monitors water quality at 60 river and stream locations around Southland. The results are freely available on the LAWA website - www.lawa.org.nz - where anyone can explore the detail of their local rivers’ current state of health, and see if there are any trends.

Water quality is affected by multiple factors such as rural and urban land use, erosion and climate. The LAWA website connects New Zealanders with environmental data, so they can make informed decisions and be meaningfully engaged in solutions.

LAWA is collaboration between Environment Southland and New Zealand’s other 15 regional and unitary councils, the Cawthron Institute, and the Ministry for the Environment.

Environment Southland acting chief executive Vin Smith said, "Whether it be as an individual, business or farm, or within the urban or rural areas - every action is important. We all need to part our play."

"I encourage everyone to go to the LAWA website and explore water quality at your local river sites," Vin said.

The LAWA information release is timely. The Government’s latest Essential Freshwater package, currently out for public consultation, contains wide-reaching proposals to improve water quality and ecosystem health across New Zealand. "Make sure you share your thoughts through the Government’s submission process to have your say on the direction of freshwater in our country and in Southland."

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