Website details health of country's waterways

MATHEW GROCOTT
Last updated 12:00 21/03/2014

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A "world-first" website is allowing people to check the health of waterways around the country with the click of a mouse.

The development of lawa.org.nz was driven by Horizons Regional Council in collaboration with New Zealand's regional councils, the Ministry for the Environment, Cawthron Institute and Massey University.

Lawa, which stands for Land and Water Aotearoa, displays state and trend information for more than 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.

"We're pleased to be part of this initiative, which is a world first. It seeks to create a better connection between communities and their local waterways," said Horizons chief executive Michael McCartney.

"Fresh water is a vital asset to our country and it's 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.

"The technology involved is also exciting as Lawa is more than just a website - it is an opportunity for people to collaborate, share news and events and keep up to date with the health of their rivers locally, regionally and nationally."

Horizons measures a range of parameters when assessing water quality, including E.coli, nitrogen, phosphorous, water clarity and pH. By using Lawa, you can see how a particular site, catchment or region compares to others around the country. You can also see if the site is improving, stable or degrading.

Launched this week, the website does not just present information about water quality but gives people a way to learn about what activities are taking place in their waterways and to share their own stories about them.

"Everyone has a responsibility in looking 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," Mr McCartney said.

"People can use the site to share news, report pollution or promote river-related events such as cleanup days or riparian plantings."

Mr McCartney said it could be used in future for far more than water quality. There were about 20 types of information that had been identified as potential additions, with water quantity and coastal water quality the most likely to be available next.

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. "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," he said.

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Lawa can be found at lawa.org.nz

- Manawatu Standard

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