Native freshwater species are at risk of being lost if we don't act now, the Forest and Bird association says.
The plea comes after a new report by the Ministry for Environment on freshwater quality throughout New Zealand.
"What this report shows is we need to act now if we're going to avoid irreversible damage to freshwater in New Zealand," says Forest and Bird's freshwater advocate Tom Kay.
The report highlights that 76 per cent of our freshwater fish are either threatened with, or at risk of, extinction and between 95-99 per cent of rivers in areas affected by human development are polluted.
"I think we should be pretty shocked by that," Mr Kay says.
"That's basically saying that every river, in any area of New Zealand where humans have an impact, is degraded."
The report also shows that 46 per cent of lakes larger than 1 hectare (1758 in total) are in "poor" or "very poor" ecological health.
Irrigation, industrialisation and climate change were among the causes impacting the country's waterways.