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Otago lakes filled with wastewater

Updated: Sep 10, 2019


Some of New Zealand's most scenic and popular lakes have been on the receiving end of wastewater overflows.


Many lakes, rivers and streams in Otago have been included in a Queenstown Lakes District Council resource consent application to discharge wastewater. Wastewater overflows already happen outside resource consent and result in major fines for local councils. Around 200 overflows have happened over the past 3 years. This consent would legitimise existing activity for the next 35 years, as long as the effects were mitigated as best as possible.


Some affected waterways include major tourist destinations such as Lake Wanaka and Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown. The wastewater overflowing into these lakes include raw faeces, food waste, heavy metals and industrial waste - as a result of pipes getting blocked or broken. Both Lake Wanaka and Wakatipu are microtrophic, meaning that very minor changes in nutrient concentrations in the water can have major effects. Many near by rivers and streams are also very sensitive to wastewater discharges, especially effecting freshwater habitats and native ecosystems.


One of the challenges facing regional and city councils is monitoring wastewater systems and building infrastructure to avoid overflows. Problems often occur during severe weather events or as a result of blockages in the pipes. Traditional monitoring equipment can be expensive and difficult to access - especially during flooding events. Waterwatch provides modern solutions for waterway monitoring, both above and below ground.


Our LS1 Ultrasonic Water Level Sensor and LS1-P Depth Sensor can be installed in remote locations and transmit data to our online platform. This information can be studied to predict future events as well as setting alarms when preset thresholds are met. These sensors have been designed to measure water levels in confined spaces, monitoring alongside existing infrastructure.


Waterwatch aims to make information accessible for vulnerable communities, environmentalists and city councils to ensure compliance with regulations. We are already working to protect many New Zealand and Australian habitats monitoring everything from dams and streams and groundwater networks. We want to ensure local waterways clean and healthy.