Hawke’s Bay Regional Council monitors over 70 rivers sites and 5 lakes in Hawke’s Bay for ecosystem health. During summer we also monitor popular swimming sites so you know they are good to go.
All regional councils in New Zealand are required to report on freshwater for the ‘State of the Environment’ (SOE) as specified in Section 35(2A) of the Resource Management Act (RMA).
Mai i te kāhui maunga ki tangaroa - From the mountains to the sea
Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s environmental science team gathers information so we can understand changes in the health of the freshwater ecosystems and identify the main threats to humans, animals or life in the water.
When we identify a threat, we come up with a strategy to tackle it, often working with the community to help solve issues. It can take a long time to get stream, wetland, rivers and lakes healthy again, so some solutions are inter-generational.
The Regional Council monitors freshwater in Hawke’s Bay for two different purposes:
LAWA is a national site for sharing water quality data.
Regional Council staff monitor over 30 popular swimming sites during summer 1 November – 31 March so you can know where it’s good for swimming and other water recreation – and that it's safe for your dogs.
We monitor for:
People swimming in the shallows of lakes can also be affected by “duck itch” or “swimmers itch”, a minor skin irritation. This is not related to water quality issues. See your pharmacy or doctor for treatment.
Our network of over 70 routine water quality sites on Hawke’s Bay rivers and streams provides us with a picture of habitat and water quality. We use this data for State of the Environment reporting as the life within a waterway reflects the wider area - upstream and downstream - and tells us about conditions over previous months (e.g. flood or drought).
We report on the life supporting capacity of our rivers and lakes each year - see our report cards - and work with our community on solutions to any problems we find.
We can measure water quality on site using handheld probes and other basic equipment, although some important indicators need to be measured in a specialist laboratory.
We also use laboratory tests for Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) which is usually monitored for compliance with resource consents, rather than the state of the environment. This measures the impact of organic material (e.g. slurry, silage, sewage, milk, etc) on macroinvertebrates and fish. In polluted conditions, bacterial populations can grow so large that oxygen is removed from the water.
Most algae in rivers and lakes is harmless – it might be messy and slimy and sometimes smelly when water levels drop, but will not cause you health problems.
However there are algae-like bacteria that can cause health problems.
What does it look and smell like? Soft black mats that form on rocks in parts of stony rivers. These can lift off and when they dries on a river bank and look pale, like dried leaves or a cow pat. The mats have a musty smell.
What’s the problem? The mats can turn toxic and scientists don’t know when or why. So treat these always as toxic. These can affect human health with skin irritations and breathing problems. Algal mats have been linked to dog deaths although this is inconclusive as the symptoms have been similar to heat exhaustion (out on the hot, river gravel) or poisoning (pest control in river areas can leave carcasses around). Dogs are attracted to the strong musty smell of these mats.
What to do? Do not touch the mats and keep dogs under control in river areas. Alert Hawke’s Bay Regional Council on 0800 108 838 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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