Alarming Nitrate Levels in Water and Rivers

Opinion by Charlie Baycroft

News from Greenpeace that many Southlanders and Cantabrians are exposed to levels of nitrate that are potentially hazardous to human health is alarming. Recent testing confirmed that nitrate contamination in the Gore, Lumsden, and Ashburton areas from household bore supplies and even town supplies are often in excess of 1mg/L and sometimes significantly higher than that. Scientists warn that above 1mg/L nitrate in drinking water risks bowel cancer and preterm birth for pregnant people. Higher levels of nitrate increase potential health risks. 
It is also very toxic to aquatic ecosystems which affects invertebrates and fish both native and trout and salmon.
This is an issue that concerns people that hunt, fish and have firearms as seriously as “environmentalists”.

Public Outdoors Sector

Contrary to some prejudiced narratives, the people that hunt, fish and shoot are members of an OUTDOORS COMMUNITY that cares very much for nature, the environment, ecosystems, natural habitats, conservation and public health.
Almost without exception we respect the species that live freely in the forests, rivers and seas and understand that their survival is also threatened by excessive and wasteful exploitation of natural resources for commercial gain in a society and economy of CONSUMERISM that is irrational and dangerous.
The pollution, destruction, modification and reallocation of natural habitats to access and exploit natural resources is accepted and allowed to increase because it generates more revenue and profits for global corporations and more tax revenue for people in governments to spend.
Whenever there is a conflict of interests between the environment and the economy, the latter will prevail because the influential members and funders of our major political parties always prefer the money.
Bye Bye Bugs
As Mike Joy told me. “Yes, the bugs are disappearing!” and, as an angler, this is very disturbing because these “bugs” are the major food source of the trout I enjoy seeing and attempting to catch. They are also the “canary in the coalmine” that is warning us of the dangers of what we are doing and must stop doing for the benefit of our species and the others whose existence is sustained and enabled by the natural resources of our planet Earth.
Hunting, fishing and having firearms are not sinful or antisocial things as some insist. 
They are an integral part of our culture and heritage and the inclination to pursue these activities is in the DNA we inherited from our ancestors.
There is no need for us to try to justify who we are or what we do to anyone else unless we are physically harming them or their property, which is in violation of natural and civil laws.
There is much to be gained by cooperation between members of the OUTDOORS COMMUNITY and the ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVISTS because we have common interests in spite of our differences of opinion about some less important issues than the protection and conservation of our precious natural resources.
What unites us is beneficial and what is allowed to divide us, is detrimental to us all.
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7 Responses to Alarming Nitrate Levels in Water and Rivers

  1. Frank Scott says:

    In May last year (2022) a study found there is not enough rain and river water in Canterbury to dilute nitrate pollution into acceptable drinking water standards.
    So what’s happened since? Politicians and ECan and other elected councils are sitting on their hands.
    Never find the loss of the public’s fisheries in trout and salmon.

  2. "Chinook" says:

    This is an excellent opinion piece by Charlie Baycroft. Yes the neglect is due to human penchant for greed, i.e. money. Politicians should be held to account at this year’s election. Government MPs are in Canterbury. I get newsletters from Duncan Webb. I have never noticed his concern about nitrates and human and river health.

  3. Bud jones JonesQSM says:

    Do to employment for 40 years requiring my movement up & down the country, with reasonable amounts of free time plus usual weekends & days off interspersed, I was able to fish just about every location, nook & cranny in the country. Sadly, this movement & close observation revealed the decline in water quality & numbers of trout & aquatic life generally. It was as if a toxic cocktail was being slowly introduced to fresh waters by leaching/ percolating from unknown vast multiple thing sure, a slow death was being visited on our great fresh waters.As if that wasn’t bad enough, the process is well on the way to give ownership of water to wealthy tribal Iwi. That old Biblical story of turning water into wine will get a new twist as these wealthy tribes demanding & getting ownership of water will turn it into money, then selling it back to the public.
    The ludicrous logic voiced many times by the Iwi leaders Group 2017, was that “moedis have rights & interests in water” Now, it is deemed that’s sufficient reason to hand over ownership. Indeed, even of our access to & use of water will soon involve clipping a ticket for use even waste disposal too. This will be a permanent revenue stream to moedis forever. It wont end there, radio air waves, every natural resource will go the same way. The whole Conservation Estate next.
    Just think of the millions of tons of coal under the surface of the Deniston Plateau Westland just waiting to be converted into hard cash!Make no mistake the end game is moedis will take the country “one way or another”!!

  4. Peter Trolove President NZFFA says:

    For those of an academic bent Ecan has produced Ecan Science Summary: “How Long will it take?” A summary of information about nitrate time lags in Canterbury. R23/02
    The NZFFA has been monitoring surface waters in the Selwyn Water Zone on a monthly basis since August 2020.
    The results are summarized on a spreadsheet that should be on the NZFFA website.
    The Lower Selwyn River won the prize peaking at 9.98 mg/L NO3-N
    Hart’s Creek comes a close second remaining stubbornly above 8.0 MG/L all last year until April 2003 (8.82 mg/L).
    The August 2020 MfE NPS FM “bottom line” for rivers (and aquifers) is 2.4 mg/L NO3-N.
    Ecan has given first order priority to irrigation for the past decades, hastened by the Ecan Act 2010.
    This region’s freshwater is now the most polluted of any region in New Zealand.
    This is why the NZFFA has made the Canterbury region the focus of the NZFFA’s advocacy since 2018.
    Canterbury has the highest level of nitrate pollution than any other region in NZ.
    Many of our lowland rivers and streams have been devastated in terms of negative ecological impacts.
    There is no evidence that Ecan’s NZ$ 60 million Land and Water Regional Plan is reversing this problem.
    In February 2023 Ecan Councillors voted not to test private wells, determining that it is the responsibility of private well owners to ensure their drinking water is safe to drink.

  5. "Watchful Voter" says:

    With reference to the concern of “Chinook” about Canterbury government MPs, such as Duncan Webb, when have any of them spoken up on behalf of their constituents about high dangerous nitrate levels? Megan Wood? Jo Luxton?
    Similarly National MPs are capable of speaking up.
    “Hello, is anyone out there?’

  6. Graham john Elwellj says:

    Hey Everyone , quite often there is a very simple solution to the most complex problems ? Case in point our Water Quality right now , our Politicians must MOVE quick smart & Legislate to BAN all “Perks & Free Bs” handed out by BIG CHEM ? That CON Kiwis to use much more product than they really need , Chem & Fert is dumped by over application ( over spraying ) , so they can rush back for the free Hats & Parkas with their Logo on ? & go in the Draw for a new 4×4 or a Vanautu Fishing Trip ? But hang on ,what about our Fishing Trips here in NZ ! on the way out with with Pollution , algal blooms Etc. including a black one that blows dogs over ? Years ago when we used packs dogs ( up to 30 running around, drinking flat out on a hot day ) , on the Pest Destruction( Rabbit) Board in the riverbeds & water ways this was unheard of . ////// What a crying shame they found Round Up in our Export Honey in Japan ?/// also all our Green Frogs have gone !! along the Cinnabar Moths that control Ragwort ? most likely due to the constant> “heavy handed over spraying” of roadsides & Vineyards . /// By the way Frogs are the Canary down the Coal Mine? /// P.S. I ran by own Fumigation & Pest Control Firm for many years & know how Chem Firm Sales People try & push bulk extra product on you, with B.S. & Free Bs ? & we all wonder why so much Ag & Hort Chem that was in Storage? got washed into in the environment in the recent Hawkes Bay Mega Floods .

    • Graham john Elwell says:

      BIG CHEM ? ( Like their mates in Big Oil ) Think they can do as they like & they” DO ” , & have a long teach . //// Our Second Rate M.Ps of all parties , must know what’s going on with our Water Qual ? Why don’t they MOVE on this ? they can sit up all night & Legislate to take Kiwi Workers Meal Breaks away ? ( thus most likely causing a drop in productivity ) , in a Country where we even give a bloody Dog a Drink ! We have an Election coming up ? make it clear that you are not voting for those that turn a Blind Eye with our former envy of the World pristine Water Qual .making a Hundred Percent Pure a Joke . // The problem today , most M.Ps seem put themselves before their Country ? when it used to be the other way round ,not that long ago.

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