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.
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.

‘Swimmability’ of New Zealand rivers

Swimming is a popular activity in Aotearoa-New Zealand. Two attributes of waters that strongly affect aesthetic quality and safety for swimming are visual clarity and faecal contamination. It turns out that these two attributes are fairly well-correlated (inversely) in New Zealand rivers, such that (easily seen) visual clarity provides a rough-but-useful guide to (unseen) microbial quality.
A project to restore a stream catchment in Kaikōura—damaged in the 2016 earthquake—is being described as inspirational by NIWA scientists.
The hard concrete surfaces that characterise New Zealand towns and cities are barely likely to register as a problem with most people. But they're never far from the minds of our urban water researchers.

Irrigation Insight

The Irrigation Insight programme is focussed on developing knowledge, tools and the confidence of dairy farmers in better managing irrigation, precisely applying the water needed—where, when and how much.
EFSAP is a water planning and management tool designed to assist with setting regional or large-scale water resource use limits for rivers.
On the bottom of New Zealand’s largest freshwater springs is an underwater garden of vivid green, pinks and inky blues.
Waikoropupu Springs video
NIWA freshwater scientists have completed monitoring the ultra-clear water of the Te Waikoropupū Springs near Takaka.
Water sensitive Urban Design - Extended version

Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) has emerged as a form of development that, among other objectives, aims to deliver resilient water ways providing a range of benefits to urban communities.

Ruth Beran discovers that public interest in the state of fresh waterways has driven a dramatic change in the tools used by scientists.
Water Sensitive Urban Design
Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) has emerged as a form of development that, among other objectives, aims to deliver resilient water ways providing a range of benefits to urban communities.

Assessment of Resilience in Urban Social-Ecological Systems

Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) has emerged as a form of development that, among other objectives, aims to deliver resilient water ways providing a range of benefits to urban communities. NIWA’s Urban Aquatic Environments group has investigated how resilience concepts provide a basis for discriminating between WSUD and conventional urban development approaches.

The origin of Didymo

Didymo, a mat-forming freshwater diatom is now a familiar and unwelcome feature of many South Island rivers. In New Zealand, it is generally accepted that didymo is an introduced organism, but not everyone accepts that. New science provides a strong case for its ‘introduced organism’ status.
Freshwater Update 76 brings you the latest information from our Freshwater & Estuaries Centre, with articles ranging from spring and river water condition to urban waters, didymo and aquatic plant scientists.
A group of volunteers who love the Hutt River are helping to care for it over summer.
Citizen scientists take on Hutt River
Citizen scientists take on Hutt River

Helping councils voice a position on improving monitoring and reporting of ‘swimmability’ in New Zealand

New Zealand’s rivers, lakes and coastal waters are highly valued for swimming and other contact recreation activities. To satisfy both public health and state of the environment objectives, monitoring and reporting of the suitability of these waters for recreation must be meaningful and robust.



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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