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Why is multi-point monitoring across waterways so urgently needed?

By integrating data and insights from a network of monitoring stations, New Zealand has the immediate opportunity to improve the health and sustainability of its waterways so we can maintain our reputation for clean, beautiful, natural resources. Through employing advanced water monitoring technology, developed here in Aotearoa, we can actively oversee and rejuvenate water resources through real-time data provided by multi-point monitoring systems.


NZ waterways in trouble Our waterways are crucial for the country's biodiversity, culture, and economy, however our freshwater ecosystems are in a critical state with widespread pollution and declining water quality. 45% of our rivers are now unsafe for swimming and nearly half of our lakes are in poor health. This will have potentially devastating consequences for the reputation of key industries, from dairy and tourism, to agriculture, aquaculture and construction. 


Why we urgently need multi-point monitoring


The rapidly escalating challenges for water quality demand a more advanced approach: a network of real-time, continuous water quality monitoring systems which enable proactive, fact-based management.


AquaWatch AI Camera for Water Monitoring

"Through better, more thorough, real-time monitoring, it is possible to turn these statistics around, and restore water health across Aotearoa,” says AquaWatch Managing Director Abi Croutear-Foy. “The use of the AquaWatch water monitoring technology is like moving traffic management from paper maps, to Google maps.”

A network of real-time, continuous water quality monitoring systems addresses the limitations of traditional methods by providing comprehensive, time-sensitive data that can inform proactive water management decisions.


“We are at a crucial time for the health of our waterways globally and here in Aotearoa, the answers are available now,” says Croutear-Foy. “By deploying AquaWatch waka across a multitude of key locations, we can thoroughly assess and report on the health of waterways and respond in effective ways.”  

Traditional water quality monitoring methods ineffective 

Traditional water quality monitoring methods, such as grab samples and expensive single-point continuous monitoring, have been the norm. Yet, while useful for certain applications, they only provide a snapshot of water quality at the time of sampling. This method misses short lived pollution events and does not capture the daily changes of water quality parameters. 


Similarly, single-point continuous monitoring systems, though they offer continuous data, are limited by their inability to capture change across different points of a water body. 


“It’s pointless knowing that the water quality at the middle of a waterway is not ideal,” says Croutear-Foy. “We need to know where it’s changing and why so we can proactively manage the inputs and outputs and identify the causal relationships that are effecting the health of each water body”.

Multi-point monitoring offers responsive solutions

The deployment of real-time, continuous monitoring networks has led to the identification of pollution events and the development of solutions in various contexts. For example, the use of such systems in urban rivers has facilitated the early detection of pollution spikes, enabling quicker response times to mitigate impacts. Similarly, agricultural runoff, a significant concern in New Zealand, can be more effectively managed by identifying specific sources and times of nutrient surges, allowing for targeted best management practices.

There are many specific examples from recent research that highlight the benefits of multi-point data networks:

  • Comprehensive Monitoring Capabilities: A study by Zhu et al(2010) on seawater industrial fish culturing showcased a monitoring system capable of multi-point online monitoring. The system combines web-server-embedded technology with mobile telecommunication technology and utilizes artificial neural networks (ANNs) to forecast water quality, allowing for timely control to prevent catastrophic losses. It demonstrates the feasibility of multi-parametric, long-distance, and online monitoring for water quality information, which can be accurately acquired and predicted, offering an insightful example of how such a network could provide comprehensive spatial and temporal data for environmental monitoring purposes

  • Improved Data Classification and Management: Shakhari and Banerjee (2019) developed an algorithm for continuous water quality monitoring that outperforms existing methods in classification accuracy. Applying this in a network across New Zealand could improve the identification of pollution sources and facilitate targeted management interventions.

  • National Scale Data Integration: The Water Quality Portal developed by Read et al. (2017) in the United States demonstrates the value of integrating water quality data from multiple sources into a single platform. A similar network in New Zealand could provide a centralized database for water quality data, enhancing research, management, and public awareness on a national scale.

  • Advanced Pollution Source Identification: The application of multivariate statistical techniques in assessing water quality, as shown by Shrestha and Kazama (2007) in the Fuji river basin, Japan, can be instrumental in New Zealand. By analyzing data from a network, authorities can identify pollution sources with greater accuracy, aiding in effective mitigation strategies.

  • Effective Monitoring and Fault Detection: Alferes et al. (2013) highlighted the importance of data validation and fault detection in monitoring systems. Implementing a network with these capabilities in New Zealand would ensure the reliability of water quality data, enabling timely responses to potential issues.

Real-time, continuous water quality monitoring systems across New Zealand is essential


The transition to a network of real-time, continuous water quality monitoring systems across New Zealand's waterways is not just beneficial—it's essential. Such a network would provide a more accurate and comprehensive understanding of water quality dynamics, enabling proactive management and preservation of these critical natural resources. By learning from international examples and leveraging the latest in monitoring technology, New Zealand can protect and restore its waterways for future generations.

“We need our councils, large-scale industry and central government to adopt a more holistic, widespread water monitoring solution,” says Croutear-Foy. “Together, by embracing the latest technology, we can amalgamate massive data that tells the true picture of our waterways and enables us to develop the solutions for better water health right across Aotearoa.”

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