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Beyond the blue in Seaweek

Published: 6 March 2018

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A watching eye on water quality

It’s national Seaweek, when attention is drawn to the state of our harbours. A report released last Friday revealed the state of the Hauraki Gulf is deteriorating faster than we can effectively manage.

Water quality is an important issue for Auckland Council; we want to clean-up our harbours and waterways.

To do this we’re proposing, as part of the 10-year Budget, a targeted rate to allow us to invest more in environmental initiatives including water infrastructure, programmes like Safeswim and innovative monitoring technology.

If you’re a boatie cruising the Mahurangi Harbour, you may have noticed some of that innovative technology bobbing on the water surface.

It’s bright yellow and not easily missed. You might even have wondered what it is and what it’s doing there.

It’s the newest addition to our stable of monitoring tools to help us measure water quality. Last November, Auckland Council’s research arm RIMU added a real time water quality monitoring buoy to its network.

With optical sensors, GPS, solar panels and navigation light, it collects data about the state of water quality in the harbour and transmits it, every ten minutes, via the mobile network back to councils data archive.

The underwater sensor measures turbidity, salinity, dissolved oxygen, pH, dissolved organic matter, and water temperature; the above water sensor collects air temperature, wind direction, wind speed, and barometric pressure.

This continuous monitoring gives us the ability to detect short-term changes. Understanding these short-term water quality changes across the region, particularly for suspended sediment, is becoming more important as housing and infrastructure developments increase. The continuous data enables us to better track how land use affects water quality and to inform land-use management decisions.

Two more buoys are being prepared for deployment in other locations to supplement our long term monitoring programmes. Auckland Council has been monitoring marine water quality around the region since 1987.