Friday, November 27, 2009

A sewer

That apparently is the best way to describe the Manawatu River. Having regularly been panned for its water quality, it is now rated as one of the most polluted rivers in the western world:

The Manawatu tops a new pollution measurement of 300 rivers and streams across North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, research by the Cawthron Institute has found.

The waterway is fouled with treated sewage, industrial waste and farm runoff.

Under a system measuring oxygen changes in water, the Manawatu has by far the highest reading, almost twice as much as the next worst. The Manawatu measured 107. Anything over eight is considered indicative of an unhealthy river ecosystem. A measurement of 0–4 is considered healthy.

(The measurement used here seems to be biochemical oxygen demand; the score of 107 puts the Manawatu as five times more polluted than the average urban sewage outfall.)

While there are multiple causes, the most significant is unquestionably farmers, with nitrogen runoff and dairy effluent leeching into the waterway. The Regional Council is attempting to deal with this by imposing a cap on nitrogen in its new regional plan, but it is strongly opposed by farmers (who have the full backing of MAF for their pollution). Even if they're successful, that will only get us halfway to swimability in twenty years. We just have too many cows, spewing too much shit.

Palmerston North has seen protests over water quality before, and the Manawatu is likely to be a big issue in next years local body elections. Our Regional Councillors had better start listening - otherwise we'll be de-electing them and getting new ones.