Environmental monitoring website Land, Air Water Aotearoa has scooped the top award at the annual Science Communicators Association of New Zealand (SCANZ) awards presented in Wellington last night.

A collaboration between regional/unitary councils, the Ministry for the Environment, Cawthron Institute and supported by the Tindall Foundation, the website displays water quality data from over over 1800 river and beach monitoring sites from around New Zealand. It also provides real time river flow, rainfall and groundwater data and information on how much water is used throughout the country.

SCANZ president Christine Ross said the judging panel were “impressed with the scale of this project, the collaboration with other groups, the length of time it’s been running and the effort they have made to make their data available and easy to understand by a wide range of people. The online resources are thoughtfully presented and a great example of making science accessible.”

Chair of Local Government New Zealand’s regional sector Stephen Woodhead said the recognition of SCANZ was particularly meaningful to those involved in the project.

“Regional councils collect a vast range of environmental data and have not always been good at communicating what this data is saying in a way that a wide range of audiences can understand and consequently act on.

“Making the data accessible and understandable was one of the key drivers for the Land, Air, Water Aotearoa website and this award tells us we’re moving in the right direction.”

Mr Woodhead said that the website is one of the first of its kind to bring together a whole country’s water quality and quantity data into one place and had attracted international attention.

“Land, Air, Water, Aotearoa has not only begun to develop itself nationally, we have also had the opportunity to showcase the website on an international stage the International River Symposium in Brisbane as well as an international water conference in Vienna this year.

“The website is cementing itself as a valuable tool to support community discussions and decision making on the management of natural resources and we see that growing as we add to the website over time.”

Mr Woodhead said work was currently underway on providing air quality data to the website which would include some real-time reporting. It is anticipated this would be available on the website in May 2016. Land and biodiversity data would follow in 2016/17.

Trevor Gray, Special Projects Manager at The Tindall Foundation, who attended last night’s awards ceremony said the Foundation was immensely proud of this project and congratulated the LAWA team.

“In particular, the way LAWA has engaged the public by making complex data more understandable and accessible is an impressive achievement. This was our main interest at the Foundation and LAWA has done incredibly well to accomplish this.”

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