Water Quality

Latest news

At the bottom of our lakes are NIWA divers with waterproof clipboards. Sarah Fraser jumps in to find out what they’re doing.
The latest state of the environment report released today provides New Zealanders with clear evidence that our climate, freshwater and marine systems are changing, says NIWA.
It may be rubbish to everyone else, but to Amanda Valois each little scrap of plastic on a river bank or in a waterway tells a valuable story.
New Zealand is a land of erosion. We’re losing about 192 million tonnes of soil a year, according to the latest report Our Land 2018, from the Ministry for the Environment and Statistics NZ.

Our work

Many of New Zealand's aquatic ecosystems, and their services, are in a degraded and often worsening state. NIWA is involved in research and consultation' aimed at improving the health of our freshwater systems.

New Zealand’s freshwater and estuarine resources provide significant cultural, economic, social, and environmental benefits. Competition for the use of these resources is intensifying, and many rivers, lakes and estuaries are now degraded. Māori are particularly sensitive to the use and development of freshwater, and hold distinct perspectives concerning their identity, knowledge, and custodial obligations to manage tribal waters.

NIWA is undertaking a five-year nationwide study to find out how different approaches to riparian planting influence water quality improvements and to provide better guidance to the people and groups undertaking stream restoration.
Many of New Zealand's rivers fail to meet national guidelines for nutrient levels. NIWA has developed the Catchment Land Use & Environmental Sustainability (CLUES) estuary tool to predict the effects of land use on estuarine nutrient concentrations.

Latest videos

SHMAK Habitat - Rubbish
The SHMAK method for rubbish involves collecting and identifying all the rubbish (litter) in the stream and on the stream banks.
SHMAK Habitat – Visual Habitat Assessment
The SHMAK visual habitat assessment gives your stream a score that you can use to assess changes over time or compare streams.
SHMAK Habitat – Streambed Composition
Two methods for describing streambed composition: the visual assessment method is quicker while the Wolman walk is more accurate.
SHMAK Stream Life – How to Sort and Identify your Benthic Macroinvertebrate Sample
Use an ice-cream tray to isolate and separate your invertebrates. The Benthic Macroinvertebrate Field Guide helps you with identification.
This project aims to increase our knowledge of aquatic ecosystems and their restoration, and apply this to degraded streams, rivers, lakes and estuaries.

Lagarosiphon be gone

An underwater invader recently brought key agencies and organisations including Land Information New Zealand, NIWA, Otago Regional Council, Boffa Miskell, Department of Conservation, Ministry for Primary Industries, Fish and Game and Lake Guardians, together in Wanaka.
SHMAK Habitat - Rubbish
The SHMAK method for rubbish involves collecting and identifying all the rubbish (litter) in the stream and on the stream banks.
SHMAK Habitat – Visual Habitat Assessment
The SHMAK visual habitat assessment gives your stream a score that you can use to assess changes over time or compare streams.
SHMAK Habitat – Streambed Composition
Two methods for describing streambed composition: the visual assessment method is quicker while the Wolman walk is more accurate.
SHMAK Stream Life – How to Sort and Identify your Benthic Macroinvertebrate Sample
Use an ice-cream tray to isolate and separate your invertebrates. The Benthic Macroinvertebrate Field Guide helps you with identification.
SHMAK Stream Life – How to get your Benthic Macroinvertebrate Sample Ready for Sorting
Before you look at what animals you have collected, follow these methods to clear away debris (stones, sand, leaves, twigs) from your sample in the net.
SHMAK Stream Life – Collecting Benthic Macroinvertebrates in Muddy-Bottom Streams
If your stream has a muddy-bottom or soft-bottom (made of silt or mud), you need to use a different method than if your stream has a stony-bottom.
SHMAK Stream Life – Collecting Benthic Macroinvertebrates using the Kick-Net Method
Use a net & the kick-net method to collect a greater range of benthic macroinvertebrates and more accurately assess the diversity of the community.
SHMAK Stream Life – Collecting Benthic Macroinvertebrates using the Stone Method
If you don’t have a net, you can collect stones from the streambed and collect the invertebrates that are clinging to the stones.
SHMAK Stream Life – Macrophytes
Macrophytes are large aquatic plants. How to assess macrophyte cover with just a measuring tape and a willingness to get wet.
SHMAK Stream Life – Periphyton
How you can assess the types and amount of periphyton: communities of algae and cyanobacteria attached to the sediment surface or plants.
SHMAK Water Quality – Phosphate
Phosphate is measured in SHMAK using the Hanna Instruments Phosphate Checker. Where to order phosphate checkers and reagents.
SHMAK Water Quality – Nitrate
The nitrate test included in SHMAK is a colorimetric test. Where to order additional Aquaspex Microtest® Nitrate-N kits.
SHMAK Water Quality – Visual Clarity
There are two methods to determine visual clarity in SHMAK; the clarity tube (or SHMAK tube) and the black disc method.
How to Collect a Water Sample
Some SHMAK tests require you to collect a water sample. If you are sending your water sample to a lab for analysis, here's a list of some water quality labs.
What is Included in SHMAK
SHMAK is available as a starter kit, a standard kit and SHMAK+. Here we explain what is included in the kit and what extras you need to purchase on your own.
Setting up your Site
The various assessments in SHMAK are done over different lengths (reaches) of stream. Mark out the longest reach first, then shorter reaches.
Stream Site Assessment
SHMAK Stream Site Assessment - How to record some basic information about your stream site so you can interpret your results.
Health and Safety in the Field
Health and safety is the most important element of any activity. Watch this video before you go out into the field.
Overview of SHMAK
How healthy is your stream? SHMAK—the New Zealand Stream Health Monitoring and Assessment Kit—has been designed to help you find out.
At the bottom of our lakes are NIWA divers with waterproof clipboards. Sarah Fraser jumps in to find out what they’re doing.

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All staff working on this subject

Principal Scientist - Coastal and Estuarine Physical Processes
Principal Scientist - Ecosystem Modelling
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Principal Scientist - Aquatic Pollution
Principal Scientist - Catchment Processes
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Riparian and Wetland Scientist
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Land and Water Scientist
Wastewater Scientist
Principal Scientist - Aquatic Pollution
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Hydrology Scientist
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Environmental Monitoring Technician
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Coastal Technician
Environmental Monitoring Technician
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Catchment Modeller
Resource Management Scientist
Regional Manager - Auckland
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Environmental Scientist
Environmental Research/Science Communication
Algal Ecologist
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Principal Technician - Environmental Chemistry and Toxicology
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