Water quality seen as most crucial environmental issue

HARRY PEARL
Last updated 08:09 11/12/2013
Lake Taupo
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POLLUTION THREAT: Lake Taupo, where Te Moenga Bay is among the poorest quality bathing sites.

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Water pollution is the biggest environmental concern for residents in the Waikato region, a new report has found.

But as summer kicks into gear, the majority of the region's rivers are still said to be unsafe for recreational activities, with many deemed to have unsatisfactory bacteria levels and murky water.

The Waikato Regional Council this week released the results of a survey looking at the views, attitudes and priorities of local residents on environmental issues.

The report, which is based on interviews with 1005 Waikato residents, found that overall, respondents were satisfied with their local environment but the proportion of respondents that felt it was deteriorating (17 per cent) increased.

Among the concerns, water quality emerged as the single most important environmental issue, with 41 per cent of respondents worried - a jump from 18 per cent since 2006.

Although the regional council say river water quality has improved drastically since the 1950s, the majority of river sites that are monitored do not currently meet the council's own e. coli guidelines for contact recreation.

Waikato Regional Council water scientist Bill Vant said fresh water quality in the region is mixed.

"In some places it is excellent, in others it is poorer, but nowhere is it dire."

But long-time water quality campaigner Angus Robson said people were becoming more worried with the state of the region's waterways each day.

"There are more and more people who are talking among one another with a lot of disquiet about how these things have been sneaked out from under their nose.

"The water is gone and it has been substituted with pollution."

The survey showed 44 per cent of respondents thought the water quality in their local streams, rivers and lakes was similar to a few years ago. Thirty per cent of all respondents thought it had deteriorated in the past few years.

The report said more than half (56 per cent) of respondents correctly thought that pollution in the region's river and streams came mainly from farmland.

Mr Vant said runoff and leaching from areas of developed land - most of which is farmland - was usually the major source of contaminants.

"The agriculture sector recognises these sorts of issues and has been working closely with the regional council and others on ways to reduce this impact," he said. harry.pearl@waikatotimes.co.nz

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