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Land, Air, Water Aotearoa (LAWA) is a website that provides a wide range of information for over 1100 freshwater sites. Its aim: to help local communities find the balance between using natural resources and maintaining water quality and availability.
LAWA is also a story of collaboration involving 20 organisations and 450 scientists across the country. The project started in 2009 with 16 regional and unitary councils. In 2012, independent science body the Cawthron Institute joined on the recommendation of The Tindall Foundation.
“As a family foundation we were keen to fund the LAWA website so that information on water quality can be easily accessible to the public,” said Sir Stephen Tindall. LAWA National Administrator Caroline Rowe acknowledged our involvement, which has extended “far beyond supporting LAWA financially.”
Massey University came on board to help with site design at the end of 2012, and the Ministry for the Environment (MFE) joined officially in 2013. The LAWA website has received praise for its ease of use, and has inspired several school groups to take on their own stream studies.
Caroline explained that LAWA has a range of intended audiences—from those who understand the technicalities of water science through to the general public. The Tindall Foundation has advocated strongly to ensure the public can understand what’s presented on the site.
Regional councils assess water quality by measuring factors like bacteria, nitrogen and phosphorous levels, water clarity and acidity. The Cawthron Institute validates the data collection, processing and analysis, and LAWA publishes the results. Cawthron Institute Chief Executive Charles Eason called LAWA “a truly innovative project bringing complex science into an easily accessible and understandable format.”
The public can use the site to share news, report pollution or promote river-related events. In time, information will be added on other natural resources, beginning with water quantity and coastal water quality.
Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Dr Jan Wright recognised the value of drawing together all the regional council databases:
We gave a donation of $250,000 to the project, including $100,000 to the Cawthron Institute to validate the data presented. The remaining contribution (co-funded with regional councils) supported the website’s design and project management.
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