Managing water complex issue

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Managing water quality is a complex issue, especially in urban areas.
Waimakariri Mayor David Ayers says managing water quality is much bigger than addressing farming practices. In urban areas there is the challenge of managing run off into creeks and drains.
‘‘Water quality is an issue that communities throughout New Zealand are having to deal with and it’s important to realise that we are all part of the problem whether we are urban or rural. And it’s only by working together as communities that we are going to improve water quality.’’
He was commenting on the recent ‘‘Clean Rivers’’ campaign launched by the Green Party and the announcement of an initiative led by Canterbury churches called Walk for the Planet, to engage with local communities on water issues.
‘‘The kinds of conversations we need to be having are quite complex. Water quality is a broad community issue. Farming practices are just one aspect of it – there’s also the issue of water quality in our creeks and drains and the challenge of managing urban run off,’’ Mr Ayers says.
‘‘We need to acknowledge that most farmers are working very hard to minimise the impact of pastoral farming, just as many town dwellers are aware that what they put down sinks and drains can have a negative impact on water quality.’’
While zone committees have been set up under Environment Canterbury’s regional water management strategy to manage water quality, Mr Ayers says it is just as big an issue for district councils which oversee urban drainage systems and stock water races which flow into streams and rivers.
‘‘Being environmentally conscious as a council is actually quite complex, because you need to be thinking about time frames and costs.
‘‘The sorts of questions we have to address include the question of whether we deal with urban water quality at the point of discharge into an open drain or whether we can address it further downstream.’’
Drainage, both urban and rural, is a major expenditure item in the Long Term Plan developed by the Waimakariri District Council last year.
In Rangiora, for example, urban drains flow into the North, Middle and South Brook streams, which ultimately flow into the Cam River, which flows between Rangiora and Kaiapoi and has had a reputation for being polluted.
The council’s efforts to improve the Cam River’s water quality resulting in it receiving third place in the New Zealand River Awards in 2014.
Mr Ayers says urban roads ‘‘are not clean places’’, so when it rains pollutants get washed off roads into roadside drains and ultimately into streams and rivers.
‘‘It’s that first flush that will be the biggest problem. It’s important to be aware that most of us are quite inadvertently contributing to poorer water quality.’’