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James Muir

As a Scientific Entrepreneur and Filmmaker, James has been the driving force behind RiverWatch. His most valuable learning has been from his relationships with suppliers, researchers, designers, government and end-users.

19.07.2022

8 min read

Education

How Can We Protect New Zealand’s Waters?

Acting on the need for clear, consistent water quality data is the stepping stone to protecting New Zealand’s waters. By monitoring water quality, we can start to understand the river. Kaua e kōrero mo te awa, kōrero ki te awa – Don’t talk about the river, talk to the river.


93% of New Zealand believe that we have a freshwater crisis – how can we save our rivers? Even if we think we’re doing the right thing to protect our water, we don’t know the effects if we don’t monitor it.

To save and protect our New Zealand rivers, streams and waterways, we have to start somewhere. Acting on the need for clear, consistent water quality data is the stepping stone to success.

Our real-time, industry-leading technology makes data collection accessible and affordable for communities. The water quality monitor with the software monitoring system interprets data into meaningful water quality information.


New Zealand Water Quality

Only 8% of Aotearoa's 450,000km of rivers, lakes and streams’ water quality is tested regularly – mainly because testing is traditionally expensive and time-consuming. With so little information about our water, it is impossible to know if it is safe to use. Even more so, it’s impossible to see firsthand how fast water quality can change and the significant factors contributing to it.


Water Quality Issues in New Zealand

Water quality varies throughout New Zealand. While alpine rivers and lakes can have high water quality, pollution issues in lowland waterways are serious. New Zealand’s urban lakes are among the most polluted water bodies in the country. New Zealand water nitrate pollution worsens, and E.Coli concentrations prevent us from swimming in clean water.


The Cause of the Water Quality Issue

Controllable and uncontrollable factors are polluting our waters. From agricultural changes due to unexpected rainfall to sewage breakdowns in urban areas, the overexposure of pollutants produces evident, unwanted results. But we don’t truly know the true and full effects because not all waterways are being monitored.


Water Pollution in Agriculture

60% of monitored rivers are unsafe to swim in, according to Greenpeace, 2016. A significant contributor to this issue is the primary industries. Farming stock’s access to waterways means increased manure, sediment and fertiliser exposure to the waters. However, sediment from hill and riverbank erosion also contributes to water pollution, as increasing high rainfall occurrences lead to millions of tonnes of sediment changing fluvial systems.


Urban Water Pollution Contribution

Water pollution from urban areas can often be attributed to sewage, like broken sewers and faulty connections enabling sewerage to enter stormwater systems. However, water runoff from roads is also a contributor, as runoff contains pollutants like zinc, copper and hydrocarbons from vehicle emissions and the road itself.


Industrial Water Pollution

The industrial processes of New Zealand typically include the discharge of process wastewater to waterways. For example, as some companies discharge wastewater contaminated with pollutants into rivers and waterways, these industrial processes degrade water quality, and we are blind to it due to limited water quality monitoring. Only 8% of rivers and 5% of lakes are monitored in New Zealand.


Water Quality and Recreation

Water quality can be affected by human activity, like high amounts of visitors in outdoor camping or area of activity with limited toilet facilities can increase the chance of pollution from human waste.

Can We Protect New Zealands Water

Can We Protect New Zealand’s Water?

We can control our impact on New Zealand’s water quality by making even what might seem like the smallest lifestyle changes. Being conscious of our water quality doesn’t have to mean flipping your whole life upside down…


Minimise Your Impact on New Zealand’s Waterways


1. When you go hiking, clean your shoes.

Didymo affects insects which are fish food sources, and it also makes the riverbed slippery and can be hazardous for irrigation and recreation.


2. Turn off the tap when you’re not using it.

You can prevent water shortages by doing this, which in return means less contaminated water needs to be treated.


3. Use eco-friendly washing powder.

Plenty of powders contain phosphates or compounds with phosphorus, which has an excessive volume of nutrients. By using an eco-friendly alternative, you can help minimise the growth of algal blooms.


4. Wash away from the river.

When camping, don’t wash your utensils or clothing in the river. Soap can be a hazardous pollutant for the waterways, sometimes containing phosphates. If you need to wash and dispose of the water, follow best practices for draining the used water in the soil.


How We Can Prevent Water Quality Issues

Put simply, monitor the water quality. How do we know where we have water quality issues if we don’t monitor it? A real-time water quality measuring system provides valuable insight into the consistent changes in waterways, enabling us to understand these changes, including the causes and effects.

Was there increased rainfall and weather changes? Maybe government-standard farming practices are not being followed in particular agricultural areas? Or has there been any news about a leak in the urban wastewater system?

What Is a Water Quality Monitoring System

The answer may not be as straightforward as expected. But, our real-time water monitor can be configured to send water quality changes every 15 minutes, half-hour or hour. Get in touch with us to discuss the different personalisation options available when using the Waka water monitoring device.

Acting on the need for clear and consistent water quality data is just the starting point. Our technology makes real-time data collection accessible and affordable for communities and interprets that data into meaningful water quality information.

The device uses the latest remote sensing technology housed in a modular floating device made from recycled milk bottles, called the Waka. The Waka connects to networks and runs data interpretation with artificial intelligence programmes.


"Data Driven community engagement is essential to connecting ourselves and our future generations to our natural environments. We are an electronically connected species, and we can use this as a powerful medium to care for our natural world."

Michael paku, Impact producer


How We Can Improve Water Quality

As a country, we care enough about the quality of our freshwater to improve our water.

RiverWatch provides predictions and insights on a river’s respiration, ecological thresholds, mahinga kai values and overall health trends. RiverWatch data helps organisations and communities determine the best way to restore and repair water quality through equipping New Zealand with information and understanding of our waters.

The data collected from the water quality monitor provides a wireframe of information about the quality of our rivers, lakes and streams. Having this information available in real-time can assist us in saving and improving the health of the communities we live in.


Kaua e kōrero mo te awa, kōrero ki te awa.

Don’t talk about the river, talk to the river.


Monitoring Water Quality to Protect New Zealand

The RiverWatch mission is to empower New Zealand to achieve clean and swimmable rivers and streams through providing real-time water quality information. We’re committed to restoring and enhancing freshwater.


The Water Quality Monitoring Solution

Water quality monitoring is an adaptive solution for finding out what is happening in our waters in real-time rather than after it has happened. The Waka water quality monitor comes with five sensors and IoT connectivity. Paired with data interpretation software and signal mate, it’s suitable for any water environment to benefit the community.

The Latest About Water Quality

Understand New Zealand water quality and government regulations and standards, including drinking and swimming water quality compliance. We're educating New Zealanders to understand water quality through real-time monitoring and keeping the nation informed on the health of our waterways.