What’s happening around the lakes locally?
Otago Regional Council
The Otago Regional Council (ORC) monitor recreational water quality at Roys Bay and lake trophic state (periodically) and water quality at the lake out flow and water quality in the Matukituki River at West Wanaka. The ORC has produced several monitoring reports throughout the past 10 years, including a comprehensive State Of the Environment Water Quality Report 2007 and 2012 and a report on the trophic status of selected Otago’s lakes in 2009. Several catchment specific reports have also been completed. There is also a Lagarosiphon (lake weed) management plan for Lake Wanaka that is due for review in 2015/16.
In 2014 an environmental modelling project was started in the Matukituki Valley to measure nutrient loss from high country pastures and fodder crops. This project is in a partnership between the Ministry for the Environment and Overseer Management Services Ltd. The project was a result of Plan Change 6A mediation with Lakes Landcare farmers.
The Guardians of Lake Wanaka
The Lake Preservation Act 1973 defines the Guardians’ responsibilities, and includes the maintenance and improvement of water quality, protection of the shoreline and any matters associated with the use of the lake for recreation. In 2013 the Guardians held a symposium on the Lake - 'Lake Wanaka for better or worse? Planning for the future of Lake Wanaka'. The symposium highlighted a number of concerns with the management of Lake Wanaka which included a lack of long term environmental monitoring.
Lakes Landcare and Beef & Lamb
There is an established farm based environmental project underway in the catchment – the Beef & Lamb Lakes Project. This project is engaging high country stations and lake side catchment farmers on environmental management issues and options. This project was developed by Aspiring Environmental and Beef and Lamb as an environmental extension project working with Lakes Landcare. The long term aim of this project is about supporting farmers to advance their environmental management, which will help in mitigating the land use effects of the farm on the catchments surrounding Lake Wanaka. It also helps farmers in meeting and performing to the environmental limits set by government and improved farming efficiencies.
There has been is little focus on the urban influences on Lake Wanaka and Touchstone could initiate an urban drain study where the effects of the urban environment on Lake Wanaka, for example; storm water drains can quickly transport unfiltered polluted water directly to the lake and have been shown as major drivers of water quality issues throughout NZ urban areas. Roys Bay has numerous drains entering the bay. These have already been mapped by Aspiring Environmental.
A selection of these drains could be sampled to examine the level of contamination in the run off from the urban catchment. Key questions about contamination sources and 'clearance times' could be asked throughout the project. This information could be referenced to the Otago Regional Council 'recreational water quality monitoring' of Roy’s Bay. This monitoring already indicates significant rainfall run-off into the bay and bacterial contamination of the bays water. The contamination from storm water drains may reside in the water in the bay post rain events long enough to cause water quality concerns for multisport events and recreational swimming. This has specific interest for the hosts of the Ruby Island Swim, and anyone who uses the lake recreationally.
A concise before and after control and impact study could help the community track issues that affect the short term water quality of the bay. Such projects elsewhere have been conducted by secondary school children or university students. A Yr 12/13 Aspiring College Student / Science study/project (Mentored by Aspiring Environmental and or University of Otago) could be established in 2016.
An integrated aim of this project could be to develop a shared understanding of what our effects on Lake Wanaka are. At present there is a noticeable gap between the urban and rural Wanaka communities and the Touchstone Project is aimed at building bridges of knowledge and shared understanding.