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Wetlands - the kidneys of the land.

A recent study conducted by NIWA for DairyNZ may surprise you at just how effective wetlands can be at improving water quality and reducing contaminants in waterways.



Seepage wetlands filter, absorb and transform water contaminants such as nitrogen reaching waterways. Wetlands create unique environments whose chemistry and hydrology are ideal for treating shallow subsurface flow and dairy farm runoff. In fact, the study found that they can reduce nitrate concentration by up to 75-98%.


DairyNZ is actively researching wetlands, supporting the benefits of wetland ecosystems to improve water quality. Many Dairy farms already have wetlands, or the perfect environment to grow one. Farmers are encouraged to protect and create wetlands for their extensive benefits. These benefits include; reducing nutrient losses, decreasing the impact of floods and providing a valuable habitat for native flora and fauna. Well constructed wetlands can also trap sediment and phosphorus and reduce faecal bacteria.


Over 90% of New Zealand's wetlands have been drained in the past 200 years and continued drainage is an ongoing threat. Protection and restoration of these vital ecosystems is becoming very important. The Riparian Planner is a free online tool that can assist anyone interested in preparing or restoring wetlands.


Download yours here: https://www.dairynz.co.nz/environment/waterways/riparian-planner


How do I create my own Wetlands?


1. Identify and protect wetlands on your property.


Wetlands include anything from small on-farm swamps to large regionally recognised areas. Wetlands are areas of land where the soil is permanently or temporarily covered by water, saturating the soil. As farmers, you’ll know these areas, where ponding quickly occurs and remains after rainfall, where springs emerge and where soils pug easily.


2. Fencing the area.

Fencing wetlands will protect them from stock and allow them to perform their best. This will further reduce the amount of nitrate, phosphorus and sediment entering waterways and protect the land from flood damage. The wetlands will also create a habitat for native wildlife to thrive. Restricting stock access will prevent pugging and soil compaction, promoting the right sort of vegetation cover, reducing preferential surface flow paths and minimising surrounding earthworks.


The white line above shows the ideal placement for a fence on this property.


3. Planting the wetlands.


Planting fenced riparian areas adds further benefit to the environment as plants function like a sieve, helping to filter out sediment and nutrients before they enter waterways. Stabilising riparian plants help prevent land erosion and increase the habitat for native wildlife. More information is available here: https://www.dairynz.co.nz/environment/waterways/planting-waterways/


Funding is available from some regional councils. Contact your regional council before you begin to find out what funding opportunities are available.



At Waterwatch we are passionate about the environment and improving productivity of New Zealand agriculture. All our water level sensors are designed to have minimal environmental impact and provide valuable information to better manage water assets. Waterwatch sensors are already being used by farm owners both in New Zealand and overseas - as well as being used in habitat restoration and environmental monitoring for regional wetland habitats.


If you are interested in monitoring liquid levels please contact us or check out the links below.


Sinclair Wetlands Case Study

Waterwatch for Agriculture

T35 Tank sensor

LS1 Open Waterway sensor

LS1-P Hydrology sensor