Abstract

This article overviews community-based water monitoring (CBWM) in Aotearoa-New Zealand (NZ). CBWM was strongly boosted in NZ around 2000 by the development of the Stream Health Monitoring and Assessment Kit (SHMAK) and the Wai Care community initiative. Reform of freshwater management in NZ may be one driver for renewed interest recently in CBWM. Because professionals perceive volunteer monitoring data as unreliable, they currently give little support to volunteer monitoring. To address their concern, we compared CBWM with measurements by regional authorities (RAs) – the main water management agencies in NZ. Agreement was encouragingly close for a comprehensive range of variables, including the important state-of-environment (SoE) indicators: visual clarity, E. coli and macroinvertebrates. Community volunteers need and want on-going professional support and encouragement, and, fortunately, there are important benefits for water management agencies, including engagement of citizens in water management and use of volunteer data. Professional support for CBWM in NZ could include: advice and encouragement, training, database development and quality assurance. Current research and development is focused on improving resources and systems for volunteer monitoring, notably with upgrading of the SHMAK. We are enlisting volunteers, equipped with improved tools and support systems, to assess the benefits of riparian rehabilitation and the suitability of water for swimming.

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