Many people are aware of the importance of healthy eco-systems and freshwater on farms. What’s not so well known is that Fonterra and the Department of Conservation agreed in 2013 to set up ‘Living Water’ a 10-year partnership to trial tools and solutions to enable farming, freshwater and healthy ecosystems to thrive side-by-side.
Both organisations recognise everyone cares passionately about water quality, and no one organisation has all the skills, knowledge and influence to improve freshwater quality. That’s why they’re working side by side, and with farmers, scientists, councils, mana whenua and local communities, to share expertise and use collective strengths.
The focus for Living Water is trialling solutions to improve freshwater ecosystems and enable sustainable farming in New Zealand. Land and water characteristics can vary from paddock to paddock, farm to farm, and region to region, so solutions must be tailored to each location.
Sarah Yarrow, Living Water National Manager says: “That’s why we decided to trial multiple tools in five distinct catchments to test the limits of what could be done to improve freshwater quality.”
The Wairua catchment in Northland is home to the largest remaining wetland remnants of the Hikurangi Swamp. Increased nutrients from farmland pose threats to the unique flora and fauna. Solutions being trialled include detention bunds, structures that capture nutrients in stormwater and release them slowly, and water monitoring to understand what happens in floods.
The Pūkorokoro-Miranda catchment on the Firth of Thames is home to a diverse resident and migratory shorebird community. Trials have focused on catchment-wide pest control, and reducing sediment and nutrient loss from neighbouring farms.
The Waikato Peat Lakes focus is on improving the water quality of lakes Ruatuna, Rotomānuka and Areare to help mudfish, bittern, fern birds, dab chicks and long-finned eel return. Lake restoration and pest control includes the use of eDNA sampling to detect pest fish like koi carp and rudd.
In the Canterbury Ararira-LII there is little native biodiversity remaining due to years of land conversion and intensification of agriculture. Trials are creating habitat through better management of drainage networks, wetland restoration, riparian planting and instream habitat trials.
In the Awarua-Waituna wetland complex in Southland Living Water’s work is part of the Whakamana Te Waituna Freshwater Improvement Fund partnership with Councils, iwi and others. Tools being trialled to improve freshwater quality include land retirement around Waituna Lagoon, stream restoration, large scale constructed wetlands and a Mahinga Kai Pa.
All these trials are being closely monitored and the impacts measured to learn which tools are effective improving freshwater quality on farms in different situations and environments.
“We are costing all the solutions so we can advise farmers and landowners on what works,” Sarah says.
“New Zealand needs farming to be sustainable and profitable, so farmers have the resources to implement the effective tools. As trials end, our learnings, tools and solutions are being shared to enable changes to farming, to improve freshwater quality.”
For more information, tools, and trial results visit the website: livingwater.net.nz