Rivers sweet enough to swim in

The Tribune (NZ) - - GARDENING - BRENT BAR­RETT, WA­TER PRO­TEC­TION SO­CI­ETY To par­tic­i­pate, please email wps@in­spire.net.nz

It’s time to get waste­water out of our rivers. Farm­ers have taken this step with shed ef­flu­ent . . . It’s time hu­man waste was min­imised

The pub­lic voice is in­creas­ingly clear.

From the wide­spread sup­port for the re­cent, na­tion-wide, Choose Clean Wa­ter Tour, to the steady re­gional ef­forts to clean up the Manawatu River and its trib­u­taries, there is a grow­ing num­ber of peo­ple who are com­mit­ted to rais­ing the stan­dard for fresh­wa­ter qual­ity.

Wa­ter pol­lu­tion has mul­ti­ple causes: nat­u­ral ero­sion in the moun­tains and soil wash­ing into streams when forests are cut. Agri­cul­ture con­trib­utes more through ero­sion and high nu­tri­ent loads. Ad­di­tional pol­lu­tion is due to dis­charges from towns and cities.

So all of us con­trib­ute to the prob­lem, and all of us can be a part of bring­ing our wa­ter­ways back into a healthy state, full of life.

Among those step­ping up is the Wa­ter Pro­tec­tion So­ci­ety (WPS), com­mit­ted vol­un­teers who have fo­cussed on re­source con­sent ap­pli­ca­tions for waste­water treat­ment plants (WWTPs). Many ex­ist­ing plants were con­structed 50 years ago, and they need re­newal to ad­dress poor per­for­mance.

Some coun­cils are try­ing to do a good job, gen­er­ally by di­vert­ing much of their treated waste­water to land rather than con­tin­u­ing to pour it into the near­est river. The Shan­non WWTP is a good ex­am­ple, and Grey­town and Mart­in­bor­ough have re­ceived re­cent ap­proval for even­tual full dis­charge to land.

Oth­ers are putting for­ward mea­sures that don’t meet the ex­pec­ta­tions of the pub­lic or the En­vi­ron­ment Court. Manawatu District Coun­cil’s (MDC) Feild­ing WWTP ap­pli­ca­tion was an ex­am­ple.

The En­vi­ron­ment Court has found MDC’s cur­rent pro­posal un­ac­cept­able for its lack of in­te­grated, com­pre­hen­sive waste­water plan­ning. The Court also crit­i­cised MDC and Hori­zons for lengthy de­lays in act­ing (the last long-term con­sent ex­pired in 1999).

Long ago, we aban­doned dis­posal of waste­water into the streets; now it’s time to get waste­water out of our rivers. Farm­ers have taken this step with shed ef­flu­ent, and cities can con­trib­ute as well. It’s time for a cir­cu­lar process in which hu­man waste is min­imised and what is gen­er­ated is put to ben­e­fi­cial use on land, rather than dam­ag­ing our rivers, lakes, and oceans.

The pub­lic voice is in­creas­ingly clear. Let’s make our wa­ter­ways in­creas­ingly clear as well.

Green slime cov­er­ing Oroua River be­low Feild­ing waste­water dis­charge point (Fe­bru­ary 2015).

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