The overwhelming importance of diffuse sources as a determinant of receiving water quality has been recognised for over 30 years. Significant research and development on techniques for reducing inputs in the riparian zone has resulted in numerous guideline documents being produced. Yet despite this research effort, and the apparently successful transfer of key results to water resource managers, the public perception in New Zealand is that the quality of receiving waters continues to decline. In this paper we examine the veracity of that perception through examination of state-of-the-environment reporting, discussions with water resource managers, and published literature. Using a case study of Lake Taupo, New Zealand as an example, we discuss the difficulties faced by water resource managers in arresting declines in water quality. We compare the reduction in potential nutrient exports possible between ‘non-invasive’ mitigation techniques such as riparian buffer strips, constructed and natural wetlands and source control measures such as the use of nitrification inhibitors and wintering pads. Finally, we look at options available should voluntary measures or best management practices fail to deliver the nutrient reductions that are necessary to maintain lake water quality.

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