Keeping our waterways clean
Dr Ross Monaghan takes a water sample from a monitoring weir
By international standards, New Zealand lakes and rivers are still clean. However, protecting our waterways from urban development and intensified land use is increasingly a challenge.
The Climate, Land & Environment Section at AgResearch has a diverse portfolio of projects aimed at improving water quality, which has become a priority for both the Government and the agricultural sector. These projects are integrated in practice and collectively provide a good understanding of the impacts of land use on water quality in New Zealand. The impetus for these studies is the current upward trajectory in contaminant losses from farms to waterways.
The primary concern with farming around waterways is the release of nutrient surpluses (mainly nitrogen and phosphorus) from farms, which can be especially high in intensively grazed systems. These nutrients change the chemical composition of waterways, potentially increasing algal growth and decreasing their recreational and aesthetic values. Changes to invertebrate and fish populations can also occur.
Accordingly, research has been focusing on developing strategies and practices to reduce such nutrient losses and thereby mitigate the impacts of farming on water quality. Here are a few of the AgResearch projects being conducted across New Zealand to help protect our lakes and rivers from further degradation.
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