More work to do on water

July 30, 2013

Environment Minister Amy Adams says the release of two environmental water reports paint an encouraging picture of our waterways but also underline the need for the Government’s freshwater reforms.

. . . The river condition indicator is based on data that was collected across more than 300 regional council and NIWA-monitored sites over a ten year period (2000-2010), out of the tens of thousands of waterways across New Zealand.

The report shows that overall concentrations of nutrients and bacteria are either stable or improving at most monitored sites, and that water quality is generally improving.

The swimming suitability indicator provides a summary of monitored swimming sites. It reflects a precautionary approach to managing public health risks, which means that even a very small risk will be flagged through a lower grading.

The report shows that many swimming spots are affected in wet weather as a result of stormwater runoff. At some sites, heavy rain and wind can churn up sediment from the bottom of the waterway, releasing pathogens back into the water.

Other common sources of water pollution are urban stormwater systems, livestock, fertilisers and dense populations of wildlife. . .

Dense populations of wildlife are a particular concern for us.

There’s a large colony of seagulls nesting in a canyon not far above the intake for the water scheme which supplies us.

That’s causing high levels of contamination but because some are a protected species their right to nest trumps our right to clean water.

Ms Adams says the Government’s freshwater reform programme is critical to improving water quality and the way freshwater is managed.

“Issues with our waterways have been building over a number of generations, and it is going to take a similarly long time to fully realise solutions for these issues.

“The key tenet of the Government’s proposals is that improving our water management system will require solutions that start now and build over the long-term. There is no quick fix.”

There are many contributors to poor water quality.

The impact of most has built up over years to decades.

Improvements are being made and more work is needed.

But the Minister rightly points out the problems didn’t happen overnight and it will take time for the solutions to make a difference.

The river condition report is here.

The swimming suitability report is here.


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