Environment website wades deeper into water data

An environmental monitoring website, Land, Air, Water Aotearoa (LAWA), is expanding its repertoire to offer more data about New Zealand’s most valuable natural resource, water.

LAWA now displays real-time data on river flow, groundwater and rainfall levels at over 1000 sites, adding to the water quality data on the site.

“We believe LAWA is one of the first of its kind to bring together a whole country’s water quality and quantity data into one place,” said Fran Wilde, chair of Local Government New Zealand’s regional sector.

“Building on the beach and river quality information already available on LAWA, the real-time flow and water level data will allow those who rely on water for business or recreational activities to see the current state of the river or aquifer.”

LAWA also shows how much water is available in different regions and how it is being used.

“Over 27 billion cubic metres of water is consented to be taken from our rivers and aquifers each year to meet our cities’ and towns’, industry, agriculture and hydroelectricity demands. That’s enough to fill almost half of Lake Taupo,” said Ms Wilde.

“In addition to being a life-giving necessity, water is a vital input for the industrial and primary sectors and tourism upon which the New Zealand economy relies. In some regions we are approaching water resource limits where water demand outstrips supply. This can constrain economic opportunities and put pressure on our river ecosystems.”

LAWA was launched in 2014 and is a collaboration between New Zealand’s 16 regional and unitary councils, the Cawthron Institute, Ministry for the Environment and has been supported by the Tindall Foundation. It allows people to access information about the quality and availability of New Zealand’s natural resources on the internet.

Ms Wilde said LAWA would be adding more data about the quality of New Zealand’s lakes in the next few months, followed by air quality monitoring.

LAWA will also contribute to a new national environmental reporting regime being designed by the Ministry for the Environment and Statistics New Zealand.

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