Twenty Years of New Zealand’s National Rivers Water Quality Network: Benefits of Careful Design and Consistent Operation

Authors


  • Paper No. JAWRA-10-0103-P of the Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA). Discussions are open until six months from print publication.

(E-Mail/Davies-Colley: r.davies-colley@niwa.co.nz).

Abstract

Davies-Colley, Robert J., David G. Smith, Robert C. Ward, Graham G. Bryers, Graham B. McBride, John M. Quinn, and Mike R. Scarsbrook, 2011. Twenty Years of New Zealand’s National Rivers Water Quality Network: Benefits of Careful Design and Consistent Operation. Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA) 47(4):750-771. DOI: 10.1111/j.1752-1688.2011.00554.x

Abstract:  This paper reviews New Zealand’s National Rivers Water Quality Network (NRWQN), which is now in its third decade of monitoring. The NRWQN is noteworthy for being operationally stable throughout its history, and the resulting consistency is increasingly valuable for detecting water quality trends and for “anchoring” temporary special purpose monitoring campaigns. The NRWQN was carefully designed following considerable effort to learn from monitoring experiences elsewhere. Monthly visits are made to 77 sites (all near hydrometric stations) on 35 river systems that cumulatively drain about one half of the national landscape. “Core” (routinely measured) variables are: conductivity, pH, temperature, dissolved oxygen, visual clarity, turbidity, colored dissolved organic matter, fecal indicator bacteria, and different forms of nitrogen and phosphorus (italics indicate field measurements). Associated benthic biological monitoring comprises monthly visual assessment of periphyton and annual sampling for macro-invertebrates. We overview the conception, design, initiation, and operational history of the NRWQN, and highlight the diverse applications of its datasets including numerous scientific applications, national-scale modeling of material fluxes, and state-of-environment reporting and practical water management at both regional and national scale. The qualified success of the NRWQN can probably be attributed to careful (and parsimonious) design and consistent operation.

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