Rivers sweet enough to swim in
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).