Media release

World Rivers Day heralds boost for water quality data

Sunday 24 September 2017

Understanding and improving our waterways requires high quality information and communities can now access the latest on their rivers, lakes and streams thanks to fresh data available today. World Rivers Day highlights the value many people see in rivers, and strives to increase public awareness and improved stewardship of rivers around the world.

LAWAWater quality is of high importance to many across New Zealand and became a key election issue.  It is clear New Zealanders want to see a lift in the quality of our fresh water resources. 

This World Rivers Day environmental monitoring organisation Land, Air, Water Aotearoa (LAWA) is adding the latest fresh water quality data at, where communities can easily access data from over 1400 lakes and river monitoring sites. 

LAWA is a collaboration between New Zealand’s regional and unitary councils, the Cawthron Institute and the Ministry for the Environment and pulls together data on water, air and land quality from around the country.  

Local Government New Zealand Regional Sector chairman Doug Leeder says it is increasingly important the public has up-to-date information on the quality of their waterways. 

“Having easy access to reliable information will create a greater understanding on the state of our waterways, help people make good choices about how they use them and help support the changes that they want to see for their lakes and rivers,” Mr Leeder says. 

Freshwater Group Manager at the Cawthron Institute Dr Roger Young says LAWA is a world first initiative in making a wide range of environmental data for a whole country available to the public in one place. 

“LAWA is all about open, transparent access to data that everyone can trust.  As independent validators, our role is to check that the data is collected, analysed and reported in the right way and can be trusted,” Dr Young says. 

A new LAWA topic to go live on World Rivers Day is ‘land cover’ which, describes the types of vegetation and features that cover the land’s surface, like forests, shrublands, grasslands, crops, urban areas, or roads.  The type and location of vegetation cover can influence land stability, the amount of sediment and contaminants reaching our waterways and the movement of water through the landscape. 

LAWA Chair and Otago Regional Councillor Stephen Woodhead says the land cover component is another excellent tool for helping understand water quality.  

“By measuring land cover, we can start to understand the physical make-up of our landscapes and how they are changing.  The biggest factor impacting land change is caused by people and the health of waterways is directly related to what happens on the land around them,” Mr Woodhead says. 

“To make informed decisions, communities need to understand what is happening and LAWA is designed to provide that information.” 

Work is currently underway on other environmental indicators for LAWA including updating the Can I swim here? feature for the summer, and providing a groundwater quality section next year.