Rivers and Us is a Waikato Regional Council (WRC) initiative to help educators, students and the community to consider the state of water in their local area. It explores how people use water in urban and rural settings and the effects these uses have on water quality. Rivers and Us also has a strong emphasis on investigation and data collection and using these to inform action.
The Hub has collaborated with WRC to update Rivers and Us and create additional resources to support learning. We profile the work of schools, iwi, community groups, farmers and growers – showing how and why they are taking steps to protect water quality.
Key themes and science ideas
Although some of the resources use the Waikato region to provide context, the science concepts are transferable to all parts of Aotearoa.
Te mana o te wai – the holistic wellbeing of water – is central to Rivers and Us and to water quality protection throughout Aotearoa. Explore cultural aspects of wai with the interactive Wai Māori.
All water systems are part of the water cycle. The interactive Learning about the water cycle collates many of the Hub’s water cycle resources into one handy location, including three Rivers and Us activities: Follow the water droplet, Water cycle models and Wai words.
Every water body is part of a water catchment. The environment around the catchment area has an impact on water quality. The interactive Water flows and catchments collates background articles and media about catchments and features the activities Mapping water at my school, Mapping my local water catchment and Build a model water catchment.
Water quality is affected by the activities that take place within catchments. The interactives Our use of water – impacts on water quality explores our everyday actions, while Land use – impacts on waterways has a focus on farming and land development.
Gathering data and taking action
Water quality monitoring provides the evidence needed to determine whether water is suitable for humans and local ecosystems and whether users are meeting the conditions of their resource consents. Peruse the interactive Water quality indicators, which features WRC scientist Dr Eloise Ryan speaking about some of the physical, chemical and biological indicators. Watch how to use these indicators to monitor and assess stream health and then head out and monitor your own stream with our step-by-step instructions.
The balance between our uses of the land and the impacts this has on water quality provides an authentic opportunity for cross-curricular learning. The professional learning and development article Rivers and Us – a context for learning delves more deeply into the concepts as well as the key aspects of environmental education that underpin local stream monitoring and subsequent action.
In the Rivers and Us webinar Alex Daniel from the Waikato Regional Council shares her approach to planning for a successful stream monitoring experience.
Nature of science
It is the role of science to inform regional and national water policy decisions. Scientists gather water quality data and conduct research to find solutions, but it is up to others to create, implement and uphold the policies.
See the articles in the New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 2018 Special Issue: Mātauranga Māori shaping marine and freshwater futures.
This article has been developed in partnership with the Waikato Regional Council as part of the Rivers and Us resource.