James Rus­sell El­e­ment ed­i­tor

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A cou­ple of weeks ago young and old turned out for the na­tion­wide Com­mu­ni­ties for Clean Wa­ter ‘Week­end of Ac­tion’, where they learned how to mon­i­tor wa­ter qual­ity, heeled in some na­tive plants along the banks, and cleaned up some lit­ter.

De­spite the hard work, it was still a bit on the chilly side for swimming, but the day won’t be long in com­ing when sit­ting be­side a nice cool river will be­come a phys­i­cal im­pos­si­bil­ity; the temp­ta­tion to strip off and fling one­self in will be just too great.

Hold up there. That river might not be quite as pure as you were told prior to the elec­tion.

Ear­lier this month the hawk-eyed Adelia Hal­lett from Car­bon News spot­ted that the word­ing on the Land Air Wa­ter Aotearoa web­site (lawa.org.nz) had changed, and that the gov­ern­ment is no longer claim­ing that the qual­ity of fresh wa­ter is “sta­ble or im­prov­ing.”

LAWA al­lows users to search by re­gion, and to fur­ther break down that search into bac­te­ria, clar­ity, ni­tro­gen and phos­pho­rus. The prob­lem is that lev­els are com­pared only against other rivers in the re­gion, so give no in­di­ca­tion of their ac­tual qual­ity.

If the poor old Ho­teo River’s wa­ters are muddy, they’re noth­ing com­pared to the lan­guage used to talk about fresh wa­ter qual­ity in New Zealand.

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