City waterways most polluted

Farming’s contribution to water pollution gets a lot of publicity but city waterways are the most polluted:

“Stormwater drains end up in creeks, and creeks end up in bays. Dog poo, litter, all end up in streams, and you might be swimming in the bay the next day,” said National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research’s chief freshwater scientist, Clive Howard-Williams.

Agriculture is often blamed for New Zealand’s declining water quality, but the country’s most polluted waterways are found in the inner city. . .

This doesn’t excuse farmers from doing all they can to ensure their practices don’t pollute waterways but it does show improving water quality is an urban issue too.

The biggest issue for cities is chemicals and organic matter being discarded down stormwater drains from individuals and light industry that eventually end up in the sea.

“Paints, poisons and explosives are the things . . . that pollute beaches. At the end of the day a goldfish down the toilet is not going to do any harm,” McIlroy said.

Even dog faeces and discarded ice creams contribute to the degradation of waterways and beaches. So does washing the car.

“A lot of that sort of material causes the loss of oxygen, so fish in streams die. There is just too much organic matter and then you end up with bacteria in places where you swim,” Howard-Williams said.

Many people believe stormwater is treated before it is fed into the sea, he said. It is not.

“Stormwater drains play a fundamental role in removing floodwater. But the problem is that they end up in creeks, bays and lakes and it is untreated,” he said.

City folk needed to appreciate where the stormwater drains end up and be aware of the lengths councils went to keep them clean, he said. “There is a general lack of appreciation of what goes down the stormwater and where it goes. Urban dwellers have a lot to learn.”

Adverse publicity about rural water quality combined with education have prompted most farmers into taking a much more proactive approach to improving water quality.

More publicity and education are needed to ensure urban people take responsibility for keeping water in towns and cities cleaner too.


5 Responses to City waterways most polluted

  1. Captain Fantastic says:

    Excellent. And timely. It is a fact that most Regional Councils, especially their Councillors are in a state of denial. I am afraid that most Regional Council publicity & action is based on stereotype and the bashing of minority groups, (rural & farming is suspect, if not guilty, & all dairy is dirty). Anything that may impact on the electoral majority, i.e. urban masses, (& urban rates), is blithely ignored. Simply investigate the continual degradation downstream from urban sewage “treatment”, ongoing and widespread heavy seepage from these holding ponds into groundwater. Compare the punishments dished out to farmers, as compared to urban interests. Not an even playing field, I’m afraid ! Even for Regional Council’ s, simply telling the truth is asking a lot, and not always what you may get.These organisations cannot be reformed, they should be abolished. In the South, a dress up, and I believe, a make believe seagull interfaces with the urban masses on their own level, whilst rural dwellers endure helicopter surveillance and bullying inspectors.


  2. Roger Barton says:

    I find it interesting that Ron Mark, the Mayor of Carterton District Council, is protesting about the cost of the consent process and (as I understand it) still wants to be able to discharge municipal waste water to the Mangaterere Stream. This particular waterway has had a lot of stream side planting done by a mix of dairy farmers and interested locals BUT no one wants to talk about the lower reaches of the stream. Carterton District Council have happily passed new by laws restricting where farmers can place silage pits etc but seem to fail to want to act as good citizens at a higher level around water quality management. As some of the local dairy farmers tell
    Ron M…”Welcome to our world.”
    All a bit confusing really!!


  3. robertguyton says:

    Funny. When farmers retire, don’t they settle in cities and towns?
    And aren’t most cities at the mouths of rivers, rivers that flow through farms before they get to the city?
    That said, stormwater drains and the stuff that ends up in them has been a concern for a very long time. If you think I’m just blowing (hot air), consider that I initiated a ‘drains are for rains’ project in my town 24 years ago and still maintain the promotion and ‘yellow fish’ painting today.


  4. Roger Barton says:

    Get your map out Robbity Bob. Carterton ain’t no where near the mouth of a river! Mayor Ron’s major gripe is about the cost of the consents AND the remedial work needed to make a change to the current system so it is a discharge to land system which is what Masterton is moving to having discharged into the Ruamahanga for about a century. The point I make is that much remedial work has gone on ABOVE the Carterton discharge point BUT no one wants to talk about what’s happenening below that point.


  5. robertguyton says:

    Carterton’s not coastal? Who knew!

    I was referring to Ele’s post which describes NZ city stormwater systems in general, Roger. I don’t doubt that you are right about Ron Mark. He’s flipping the environment the bird, by the looks of it.


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