Water Quality News & Issues

Human waste the leading contaminant at Auckland beaches, DNA tests show

. Stuff. 13 November 2018 

Human waste is the leading source of contamination at most of Auckland's most popular beaches, DNA test results show.

Results released by Auckland Council showed human waste was present in just over half of the 646 samples taken from sites including Browns Bay, Mission Bay, and Takapuna beach...Read more (external link)

What lives beneath: Microbes in NZ groundwater have vital role in processing contaminants

. Stuff. 20 August 2018 

New Zealand researchers are looking at how the microbes that exist in underground aquifers can help keep groundwater supplies healthy.

ESR scientist Louise Weaver says the ecosystem in groundwater plays a vital role in processing contaminants such as nitrates that end up there from a range of land uses.

"The perception is that groundwater is a sterile environment. However, there are organisms there that form a complex ecosystem that can protect the water as part of nutrient cycling."...Read more (external link)

Council vows to fix poo problem at Auckland's popular Takapuna Beach

Matthew Rosenberg. Stuff. 27 June 2018 

A busy Auckland beach visited by hundreds of swimmers over summer has also been home to a less welcome visitor - faecal matter.

The results of a recent investigation run by council-controlled organisation Watercare and the council's Healthy Waters team show evidence of elevated faecal bacteria levels at North Shore's Takapuna beach.

A high risk of contaminated water was reported for 30 per cent of summer days and some human faecal matter was also discovered as part of the testing...Read more (external link)

Animals likely cause of E.coli contamination in Waiotahe estuary

Rotorua Daily Post. 29 May 2017 

Animals were the likely cause of E.coli contamination in the Waiotahe estuary according to testing by the Bay of Plenty Regional Council.

In January Toi Te Ora Public Health issued a health warning advising against eating shellfish collected from the Waiotahe pipi beds. This was as a result of routine monitoring by the Bay of Plenty Regional Council which showed high levels of faecal indicator bacteria in the water over a period of time.

Results of recent faecal source tracking carried out on water samples from the Waiotahe catchment pointed to ruminant animals as the likely cause contamination in the estuary...Read more (external link)

Hawke's Bay water bottling plant lies dormant for four months

Marty Sharpe. Stuff. 23 January 2017

A large water bottling plant in Hawke's Bay has not extracted groundwater for four months because it is yet to find a packaging that is suitable for the Chinese market.

Miracle Water, near Hastings, sent its first shipment of drinking water to China in late 2015. The water was rejected and returned to New Zealand as it was found to contain nitrite levels too high for the local market.

But it is not the mineral make-up of the water that has stopped exports, it's the packaging...Read more (external link)

Christchurch's drinking water contaminated 125 times in four years

Tina Law. Stuff. 30 August 2016

E coli bacteria has been found in Christchurch's drinking water 125 times in the past four years.

The number of times contamination has occurred is falling though, as the Christchurch City Council completes work to reduce the public health risks. 

A report on the council's drinking water monitoring programme – to be discussed at the infrastructure, transport and environment committee on Thursday – reveals 43 water samples tested positive for E coli in 2012-13 and 39 the following year. Another 29 positive results were found in 2014-15 and 14 during 2015-16. During this time, 24,872 samples were taken...Read more (external link)

Havelock North water crisis: Two schools and retirement unit shut over gastro outbreak

Marty Sharpe and Simon Hendery. Stuff. 23 August 2016

Two primary schools near Havelock North have closed in a new contaminated water scare, and a unit of the Hawke's Bay retirement village where an 89-year-old woman died last week has been shut.

Haumoana School, about 15 kilometres from Havelock North, has its own bore and stepped up its testing after the outbreak that left thousands of people in the area sick.

Principal Jane Gallen said on the school's Facebook page that it had closed after receiving a positive E.coli test at 9.15am on Tuesday for a test carried out on Monday...Read more (external link)

'Frightful' levels of E. coli

Parts of Healthcote River back in spotlight for water quality

Cattlin Miles. Southern View. 5 April 2016

Canada geese, humans and dog faeces have been revealed as the sources of E. coli in parts of the Healthcote River - at levels unsafe for even recreational use...Read more (external link)

Kerrs Reach back in spotlight

High levels of E. coli from dog and canada geese faeces

Fraser Walker-Pearce. Pegases Post. 5 April 2016

Water contamination at Kerrs Reach is back in the spotlight after a recently released report has shown it has unacceptably high levels of E. coli and Campylobacter from dog and canada geese faeces...Read more (external link)

Faecal contamination in Christchurch’s waterways 

18 December 2015

New research shows wildfowl such as ducks and Canadian geese are the biggest contributors to faecal contamination in Christchurch’s waterways, and that following rainfall human and dog faeces can also be present. The research, which was undertaken by the Institute of Environmental Science and Research Limited (ESR), investigated the sources of faecal contamination in the Avon River/ Ōtakaro, Heathcote River/Ōpāwaho and the Estuary of the Heathcote and Avon Rivers/Ihutai.

Dr Alistair Humphrey, Canterbury medical officer of health, says the sampling provided further evidence that Campylobacter and E. coli are at levels that can be harmful to human health. “Unfortunately the quality of water in our city’s waterways is poor. E. coli levels usually exceed recreational water guidelines during normal weather conditions, and after rainfall the water is always unsafe,” Dr Humphrey says. “No one should swim in, or consume food from, these waterways. Recreational river users such as rowers should always avoid the waterways 48 hours after rainfall, and always wash their hands and equipment thoroughly after being in contact with the water.” Dr Humphrey says while faeces from any animal carries a health risk if ingested, human faeces has the greatest health risk.

Tim Joyce, Christchurch City Council's water manager, says while rain has always put pressure on our city’s stormwater and wastewater drainage systems, progress is being made on reducing the amount of wastewater that overflows into waterways. “SCIRT is making great progress rebuilding the city's earthquake-damaged wastewater and stormwater network and will have its work complete by the end of 2016. This will help reduce the contamination in our waterways after rain,” he says. “The Council has allocated $75 million to improve the wastewater system so it performs better after rainfall. A recently completed ’post SCIRT’ rebuild wastewater model is being used to determine how those funds can be used to the greatest effect.”

Dr Humphrey says the solution to healthier waterways is in the hands of the community. “Dog owners need to pick up after their dog every time. No matter where you are in Christchurch, if you don’t pick it up it will end up in a river after rainfall. “Another way people can make our rivers cleaner is by not feeding non-indigenous ducks. The more we feed ducks the bigger their population becomes, and the more of their faeces ends up in our rivers. “In early 2016 the Council will start consulting on its Three Waters Strategy and it’s important the community are clear about their expectations, and what they are prepared to pay, when it comes to recreational water quality,” Dr Humphrey says.


Faecal Sources in the Avon River/Ōtakaro, Heathcote River/Ōpāwaho and the Estuary of the Heathcote & Avon Rivers/Ihutai [PDF, 2.4 MB]
Human health risks of faecal pollution from different sources: A review of the literature [PDF, 1.1 MB]

The research was jointly funded by the Ministry of Health, Environment Canterbury, Christchurch City Council and the MBIE funded Clean Water Productive Land research programme. 

Polluted paradise

Water quality in our High Country lakes is declining as farming intensifies

Tim Fulton. The Press. 12 September 2015

Canterbury high country lakes once rated ‘‘clean and blue’’ are being fouled by nutrients and phosphorous from farming. The purity of lakes from Lake Coleridge to the Rangitata River, including Lakes Selfe, Grasmere, Hawdon, Alexandrina and Ida has declined in the past 10 years, Environment Canterbury (ECan) monitoring shows...Read more (external link)

Onepoto Domain pond remains toxic

Rachael Clarke. Stuff. 24 March 2015

The pond in Onepoto Domain remains toxic despite Auckland Council's plan to control the issue last winter. Residents and boating enthusiasts who use it regularly spent eight years asking for work to be done to improve the water quality - and they are still waiting. Located on the western side of Onepoto Domain on Auckland's North Shore, the pond is at its worst during summer when the stench becomes stronger as the water and sludge heats up...Read more (external link)

Water quality threatens fishing future

Blake Foden. Stuff. 23 March 2015

Poor water quality is threatening the future of one of Southland's biggest industries, fishermen say. Seafood exports from New Zealand were worth $1.375 billion in 2014, up 3 per cent on the previous year. About $150 million could be attributed to the Southland coast, with crayfish accounting for two-thirds of that. But Bill Chisholm, spokesman for eel and blue-cod fishermen, said the future of the industry was being jeopardised by poor water quality as a result of sediment flowing into the ocean and estuaries. "We've got this goose that's laying a golden egg, but that's all being threatened by poor water quality," he said...Read more (external link)

Sewage pouring into city rivers

Shelley Robinson. Stuff. 02 December 2014

Eight-billion litres of untreated wastewater, including raw sewage, has poured into Christchurch's waterways since the earthquakes. Experts say unless more money is made available to fix the cracked underground pipes, the sewage leaks could continue for another 10 years. Christchurch City Council water and waste manager Mark Christison said the council did not have enough money to fix the problem and unless it received a cash injection, the sewerage overflows were likely to continue...Read more (external link)

Seagull is NZ's latest endangered species

Michael Wright. Stuff. 30 October 2014

Seagull numbers in New Zealand are falling so quickly the birds now appear on threatened species lists, alongside the kiwi and the kakapo. A Department of Conservation report on bird numbers has classified the black-billed gull "nationally critical", the most serious category, usually reserved for our rarest birds, because of the rate of expected decline. The red-billed gull, the mainstay of Kiwi beaches, is "nationally vulnerable"...Read more (external link)

Dogs and geese dirtying Avon estuary

Shelley Robinson. Stuff. 14 October 2014

Faeces are again causing problems more than four years after treated sewage stopped being emptied into Christchurch's estuary.Now, it is sewage of a different kind - dog and geese faeces...Read more (external link)

Whitebait from Christchurch rivers tainted

Timaru Herald. Stuff. 19 September 2014

Health authorities are urging Christchurch whitebaiters to avoid eating fish caught in the city's rivers as they are "still open sewers" after the earthquakes... Read more (external link)

Revealed: Councils' dirty little secrets

Marty Sharpe. Stuff. 7 September 2014

Councils are breaching the Resource Management Act by discharging poorly treated or untreated sewage into rivers and coastal waterways at a rate of once every five weeks. Two of the worst incidents, each involving millions of litres of effluent, were resolved in July with large fines imposed on the offending councils... Read more (external link)

For wellbeing of all, just get the damn water tested

Louise Giltrap. www.dairyfarmer.co.nz (external link) . 28 August 2014

Normally healthy, robust Kiwi dairy farmers and their families are getting struck down with terrible vomiting and diarrhoea causing stomach bugs... Read more (external link)

400,000 in Toledo, Ohio, water scare await test results

Susanna Capelouto and Mark Morgenstein. CNN. 4 August 2014

As residents of Toledo, Ohio, waited for word on when their water will be safe to drink, Mayor D. Michael Collins said Sunday morning that tests of the water supply were going to take longer than expected. He said results would likely be available Sunday afternoon but would not provide a specific timeline. As many as 400,000 people were told not to consume, cook with or even boil the tap water, after a toxin called microcystin was found in the water supply late Friday. Collins told reporters the advisories will remain in effect until at least Sunday evening... Read more (external link)

Nick Smith denies bullying Fish and Game

Stacey Kirk. Stuff. 28 July 2014

Conservation Minister Nick Smith has rejected allegations of political interference, but may "tweak" the legislation which governs Fish and Game if he stays on as minister after the coming election... Read more (external link)

Video available: 2014 Charles Fleming Lecture with Dr Mike Joy

The Royal Society of New Zealand, July 2014

New Zealand's freshwaters - our lakes, rivers and groundwater outside of the conservation estate - are in a perilous state. In his 2014 Charles Fleming Lecture, Dr Mike Joy suggests it is past time for scientists to come out from behind their microscopes, binoculars and computer screens and make a stand on the many environmental issues facing New Zealanders... Watch video (external link)

Sheep dog patrols may curb seaside bacterial infections

Matt McGrath. BBC News. 20 May 2014

On the shores of Lake Michigan, border collies were found to be an effective means of controlling bacteria. Border Collies may be an effective weapon against E. coli infections at the seaside according to a new study. Researchers found that the hard working sheep dogs were successful at keeping seagulls away from beaches. Gull dropping are known to be a source of E. coli bacteria, which can lead to abdominal cramping and diarrhoea in humans... Read more (external link)  

Call for more research on norovirus risk

Harry Pearl. Stuff. 7 May 2014

Niwa scientist Graham McBride says more research is needed on how norovirus acts in wastewater to help town planning. More money needs to be invested in wastewater treatment research so communities can prepare for the highly infectious stomach bug norovirus, a leading scientist says... Read more (external link)

Supercity's thirsty plan.

Harry Pearl. Stuff. 28 January 2014

Auckland needs to quench the thirst of its ballooning population and is looking to take more water from the Waikato River.  A leaked resource consent application suggests the supercity's population is expected to outgrow its water supply within the next 35 years. Watercare, which is owned by the Auckland Council, has applied to take 200,000 cubic metres of water a day - roughly equivalent to 80 Olympic swimming pools - from the Waikato River to meet the region's public demand over the next three decades... Read more (external link)

Ruataniwha water quality fears rejected

Marty Sharpe. Stuff. 22 January 2014

A hearing on the controversial Ruataniwha dam has ended two months after it began, with the proponents' lawyer dismissing predictions of "environmental catastrophe". The hearing before a board of inquiry began in Hastings on November 18 and ran for 29 days before ending in Waipawa yesterday. The five-strong board has heard two matters: resource consent applications by Hawke's Bay Regional Council's investment arm to dam the Makaroro River and build an irrigation scheme, and a council plan change addressing water quality in the Tukituki River catchment... Read more (external link)

Water quality tops public concerns

Rachel Young. Stuff. 16 December 2013

Water issues are top of Kiwi minds when ask ed what the most important problem facing the country's environment is. The triennial Public Perceptions of New Zealand's Environment: 2013 survey found water-related issues were perceived to be the most important problem facing the environment. Respondents indicated that growth in production and consumption, as well as an intensification of activities including farming and forestry were putting increasing pressure on the environment. Rivers, lakes, and groundwater were the worst-managed environments mainly because of negative perceptions concerning the management of farm effluent and runoff... Read more (external link)

Last modified: