Water Quality

Latest news

A combination of artificial intelligence and scientific ingenuity looks set to be the next step forward in protecting Aotearoa New Zealand’s lakes and rivers from invasive aquatic weeds.
Environmental monitoring technician Patrick Butler has spent hours travelling between the upper and lower reaches of Canterbury’s Waimakariri and Hurunui Rivers. His mission – river water quality sampling.
How much is too much? Susan Pepperell looks at some of the tough decisions looming around access to freshwater and how science is helping with solutions.
A new study has identified seven freshwater species native to Aotearoa-New Zealand that will likely be highly or very highly vulnerable to climate change.

Our work

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.
Maniapoto Māori Trust Board and NIWA worked collaboratively during 2018-19 to support Ngāti Maniapoto whānau to reconnect with and participate in the assessment of their freshwater according to their values.
Eutrophication occurs when nutrients in streams, rivers, lakes and estuaries cause excessive growth of aquatic plants and algae (primary producers).
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.

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.
Temperature affects the number and type of animals and plants that live in a waterway.
Nutrients in waterways are essential for the growth of algae and aquatic plants but too much can destroy an ecosystem.
Waterways can easily become contaminated by pathogens when effluent is discharged nearby.
When soils erode, sediments are washed into waterways.

One of the most common species of freshwater fish in Aotearoa is the common bully or toitoi.

Grey mullet have a worldwide distribution and Aotearoa is at the southern limit of their range.

Tuna or freshwater eels are a very significant, widely-valued, heavily-exploited, culturally iconic mahinga kai resource.

Smelt have a distinctly forked tail and a strong cucumber smell.
Inanga are the predominant species in the modern whitebait fishery.
Piharau/kanakana are an important mahinga kai species and a prized delicacy for many Māori.
There are two species of kōura or freshwater crayfish in Aotearoa.
Kōaro are excellent climbers and like clear, swiftly flowing, forested streams.
The kākahi or freshwater mussel was a valuable mahinga kai resource for many Māori.
In Kaitiaki Tools the term mahinga kai generally refers to indigenous freshwater species that have traditionally been used as food, tools, or other resources.

A regular newsletter that includes a seasonal review and outlook for New Zealand's water resources, and an update on some of NIWA's freshwater and estuaries research.

Antipodean alluvial aquifers: Invertebrate distribution patterns in New Zealand groundwaters
Presented at 2nd Symposium of European Freshwater Sciences,
Toulouse, France,
July 2001
M.R. Scarsbrook & G. Fenwick
Elements of New Zealand’s groundwater fauna were first described in the 1890s, but since then research on the taxonomy and ecology of this diverse fauna has been sporadic.

Learn more about aquatic plants.
Aquatic plant overview, weed management options & freshwater plant ID guides.
Trophic preferences and range for submerged plant species in NZ lakes.
Publications related to this section.
An ability to discover basic information about plants in waterways is the foundation to solving a spectrum of problems that face our freshwaters today.
Articles related to our Freshwater and Estuaries-related biodiversity services.
The centre provides research, services and solutions spanning the spectrum of freshwater plant problems within New Zealand.

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All staff working on this subject

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Principal Technician - Marine Ecology
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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Hydrological Modeller
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Land and Water Scientist
Wastewater Scientist
Principal Scientist - Aquatic Pollution
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Water Quality Scientist
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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
Maori Organisational Development Manager
Algal Ecologist
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Principal Technician - Environmental Chemistry and Toxicology
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