Water quality on rise

ISOBEL EWING
Last updated 05:00 28/03/2014

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Taranaki's waterways are the best they have been in 20 years, but there are still a handful of areas that need work.

According to two new Taranaki Regional Council reports, the ecological health of the region's rivers is improving and nutrient levels are stabilising.

Director of environmental quality Mr Bedford said the rivers were in the best state they had been in two decades of testing.

"In terms of ecological health, we're seeing many waterways in the best state ever recorded," Mr Bedford said.

The council assesses the water quality in two ways - by examining what sort of tiny creatures are living in streams (Macroinvertebrate Community Index or MCI) and by analysing water samples to determine nutrient levels.

Mr Bedford said the results built on good results seen in recent years and represented a significant step forward for the whole region.

"What's particularly encouraging is that we are seeing some good gains in mid to lower catchment areas, where waterways flow through intensively farmed land."

However, Mr Bedford said the reports indicated there were matters that still needed attention.

Environmental campaigner Sarah Roberts said some of the data appeared to contradict itself.

For example, the MCI report for the Maketawa Stream showed it to be "good".

Meanwhile, monthly monitoring of the same stream showed faecal coliform bacteria (E.Coli) levels at "alert" level five times and "action" level twice over 12 months.

Alert level requires investigation of the causes of the high levels and increased sampling, while action level requires the local authority and health authorities to warn the public that the waterway is considered unsuitable for recreation.

"I feel they should put all the data together to give a really good picture of what's happening," Mrs Roberts said.

The report said that during 2012-13, 20 of the 57 monitored sites reached their highest individual scores for health ever seen in nearly two decades of monitoring, as measured using an internationally recognised ranking system.

Trends at 44 sites (77 per cent of the total) are showing marked signs of improving ecological health. Only eight sites now show signs of deterioration, down from 10 in the previous year.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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