Citizen scientists take Hutt River's health into their own hands

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NZN

A group of citizen scientists are taking the health of the Hutt River into their own hands and testing the safety of the water on a regular basis.

River

Source: 1 NEWS

The group of volunteers will look at how many rocks in the river bed are covered in toxic algae, sample the water for E.coli, test water temperature and keep track of rubbish.

The health of the river is an issue for the community, with 12 dogs having died since 2005 after coming into contact with a bacteria called Phormidium, which has been prevalent in the Hutt River in some years.

Phormidium can grow quickly over summer, spreading over rocks and then peeling off to float in poisonous clumps at the river's edge where dogs love to play.

Meanwhile, local and founder of Friends of the Hutt River, Pat van Berkel, wants to see the health of the river improve so locals can continue swimming there.

"It's just a great pleasure (to swim here) but the cyanobacteria are a real problem and likely to get worse as urban areas expand," he said.

"I want future generations to enjoy the river just as much as I have enjoyed it. I think New Zealanders have a passion for the outdoors and in a river you go underwater, swim and play - it's just an amazing place to be."

The community is at the front line of assessing the health of the river and often are the first to know when something is wrong with their waterway, says NIWA freshwater ecologist Dr Amanda Valois.

The Hutt River citizen scientists collect their data alongside an environmental monitoring officer who makes separate recordings and the two sets of information will be compared at the end of summer.

NIWA is confident the volunteers can collect reliable data that will enable them to independently assess the suitability of rivers for contact recreation.

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