Canterbury's Water Nitrate Project
NZFFA Canterbury Nitrate Project
The NZFFA (New Zealand Federation of Freshwater Anglers Inc.) is offering water nitrate testing for a $10 donation for all Cantabrians whose drinking water comes from rural wells or surface water.
This courier based offer is initially limited to the first three weeks of March and April 2020
The NZFFA chose Canterbury as its focus region from 2018 due to the province’s unenviable record as the having the most exploited freshwater of any region in New Zealand.
Thanks to reckless and short-sighted irrigation development driven by Central Government through the (constitutionally repugnant) ECan Act 2010, giving legal primacy to the Canterbury Water Management Strategy (CWMS) over the RMA, removing protections embedded in Canterbury’s National Water Conservation Orders (NWCOs), and 10 years of ECan control by Government appointed Commissioners, Canterbury now has the most polluted water of any region in New Zealand. Public Health has been put at risk, (from increasing levels of nitrate and water borne pathogens), and environmental and recreational values exchanged for increased GDP.
ECan maps reveal “red zones” identifying over allocation of water for irrigation and high levels of nitrate pollution in the region’s aquifers.
Both Central and Local Government knew the out of river use of irrigation water would lead to increased nitrate in the groundwater due to the regions uniquely vulnerable soils. Despite this they proceeded knowing the means and regulations to mitigate nitrate pollution were not in place.
Since August 2019 the NZFFA has been monitoring surface water in Central Canterbury for nitrate having acquired a state of the art spectrophotometer.
This was purchased following the lead of Dr Mike Joy who selflessly spent a substantial sum of his prize money on a similar instrument in order to measure the pollution that is occurring in NZ rivers and aquifers due to changed farming practices – a massive increase in the use of synthetic urea fertilizers, irrigation, and dairying.
A Question of Trust
The NZFFA has executive members who are Canterbury ratepayers who access the Ecan website to follow Ecan’s freshwater management story.
The NZFFA has reported to ECan instances of non-compliance of laws to protect Canterbury’s rivers and streams. The NZFFA has used LGOIM requests in an attempt prompt ECan to protect recreational and native fish habitat.
For a council charged with protecting the region’s water ECan’s response has been underwhelming:
· Public river margins lost to private development
· Unconsented drains – no prosecution
· Non-compliance with consented river works – simply not monitored.
· Not a single irrigation fish screen has proved to be effective
· Habitat damage by ECan’s own river engineers
· A report found ECcan had the lowest level of monitoring and prosecution for water offences than any equivalent authority in NZ.
This experience prompted the NZFFA to conduct its own environmental monitoring.
The NZFFA began testing water in the Hinds & Selwyn Rivers and Harts Creek from August 2019 and regularly find nitrate levels at least double levels that are toxic to trout eggs and fry. Trout can no longer reproduce in these waters.
ECan tells us “it will get worse before it gets better”.
The newly appointed CEO of North Canterbury F&G told NZFFA executive members that F&G has written off Canterbury’s lowland waters and plans to focus its resources on protecting Canterbury’s high country fisheries.
Ecan’s “story” is not supported by angler experience.
Public Health and Environmental Health
Public health, animal health and environmental health are inextricably linked.
The NZFFA believes you cannot manage what you cannot measure and so has designed our nitrate testing to include the approximate location of each well in order to learn more about the (nitrate) pollution of Canterbury’s aquifers.
Water testing at Ashburton by NZFFA members recently.
There is a measure of enlightened self-interest for the NZFFA as the permanently flowing coastal reaches of Canterbury’s naturally intermittent rivers are sourced from adjacent ground water.
For Public Health information on the significance of our water nitrate results the NZFFA refers you to the Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) website.
A number of large scale studies show an association or correlation between levels of nitrate much lower than the New Zealand MAV of 11.3 mg/L with an increased incidence of colorectal cancer. Studies demonstrating causation are still needed to prove or disprove this association.
The MAV of 11.3 mg/L is a historical WHO limit set to prevent “blue baby” deaths.
Nitrate is not removed from drinking water by standard water filters or boiling.
A special reverse osmosis filter is required to remove nitrate from drinking water.
Milk from lactating mothers who drink water from wells with high nitrate levels is safe for babies – the danger occurs when polluted water is mixed with formula.
While Ecan manages the region’s aquifers it considers the safety of drinking water from private wells the responsibility of the owner(s).
ECan has prioritised short term GDP over public and environmental health to the disadvantage of future generations.
Canterbury Water Quality Maps Viewer
The Ecan Canterbury water zone maps look quite different to more recent over all maps [red = water quality parameters not met. Yellow = at risk. Light blue = unclassified and can be found at the link below:
or you can go to https://ecan.govt.nz/the Ecan home page
click on to Canterbury Maps
click the environment icon (a drop outline with a stream emerging from hills)
Scroll down this page until you get to a section RHS "Water Quality and Monitoring"
Click on this and you can check the maps over all of the Canterbury region.
On task bar at top click tables to get meaning of the colours.
The fish screen debacle:
You then need to open the 2018/19 summary report to get the revealing story that Ecan's fish screens don't work.
Tim Davies ECan's chief scientist giving one of his "trust us we know what we are doing, we have a plan" presentations.
This linked to a detailed Wisconsin Public Health presentation - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mxUMAFushjk