A new website housing water quality data from New Zealand’s freshwater monitoring sites was launched in Wellington yesterday.
Fran Wilde, chair of the Regional Council Sector Group, Local Government New Zealand said the Land, Air, Water Aotearoa (LAWA) website would provide a wide range of information that will help New Zealanders make good choices about using and enjoying our highly valued resource – fresh water.
“Never before has there been such a focus on the state of New Zealand’s freshwater but until now there has been no single place to access information about the quality of our rivers,” said Fran Wilde.
“Freshwater is a vital asset to our country and its important that the public can see and understand for themselves the state of a particular river or catchment and how it may be affected by what’s going on around it,” she said.
The LAWA website, is a collaboration between New Zealand’s 16 regional and unitary councils, the Ministry for the Environment (MFE), Cawthron Institute and Massey University.
A New Zealand first, LAWA displays state and trend information for over 1100 freshwater monitoring sites, giving the public access to all of the country’s water quality monitoring in one place and in a common, easy to understand format.
Regional councils measure a range of parameters when assessing water quality. The most common are bacteria, nitrogen, phosphorous, water clarity and acidity. LAWA allows users to see where a river or catchment sits in comparison to others for each parameter and indicates whether things are improving, degrading or remaining stable.
To give the public assurance around the accuracy of the data displayed, New Zealand’s largest independent science organisation, the Cawthron Institute, has partnered with the councils and MFE to validate the way the data is collected, processed and analysed.
“We’re excited to partner with regional councils and the Ministry in what we see as a truly innovative project bringing complex science into an easily accessible and understandable format,” said Cawthron’s chief executive Charles Eason.
“Many people can so often be put off by overly complex scientific information but we believe LAWA has simplified the science and allows everyone to connect with what’s going on in their river.”
The development of LAWA was supported by the Tindall Foundation, a philanthropic family foundation. Co-founder, Sir Stephen Tindall was keen to see the vision of LAWA realised, after experiencing difficulty in accessing clear information about the state of New Zealand rivers.
“I have a personal interest in this project because I love swimming and love our waterways. I spend every summer holiday with my family around the water swimming, fishing and kayaking,” said Sir Tindall.
“To me, the fact that the quality of our waterways is on the decline, is a horrifying thought. As a family Foundation we were keen to fund the LAWA website so that information on water quality is easily accessible to the public. And, by collecting data, we can identify problems early and see if water quality is improving or not. Then we can see how we can help, and encourage others to do the same. This is about preserving our rivers and fresh waterways for the future to ensure the safeguarding of our ecosystems, our clean green image and to protect our beaches too.”
LAWA also allows people to share information about what’s happening in waterways.
“Everyone has a responsibility to look after our rivers and we want people to be able to use LAWA to tell us and others what’s going on in their local waterway,” explained Ms Wilde.
“People can use the site to share news, report pollution or promote river-related events such as clean-up days or riparian plantings.
Ms Wilde said that work is now underway on developing LAWA’s next modules which will be water quantity and coastal water quality.
LAWA can be accessed at LAWA