A comparative study of riparian drain management and its effects on phosphate and sediment inputs to Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere.
Thesis DisciplineWater Resource Management
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Water Resource Management
Issues affecting water quality are seen as one of the most important and pressing global problems of our era. In New Zealand, water bodies with the poorest water quality and ecological condition tend to be surrounded by pastoral land use. Lake Ellesmere/Te Waihora in Canterbury, New Zealand, is a typical example of the issues that nutrient and sediment run-off from pastoral land can create.
The aim of this study was to determine the relationship between sediment concentrations, phosphate concentrations, ecological state and the degree of riparian restoration on drains that flowed into Lake Ellesmere/Te Waihora, and to calculate the load of phosphorus and sediment delivered by each of the drains to Te Waihora over the year, comparing this to the loads carried by larger, natural streams and rivers. Little research has been done on these small artificial tributaries of the Lake Ellesmere/Te Waihora catchment. Data collection was carried out on 10 drains with variable degrees of riparian planting, monthly in summer and autumn, and fortnightly in winter and spring, due to higher variability in drain flows during this time.
Sites 1, 2 had low dissolved oxygen (DO) and high total phosphorus (TP), lack of flow and extremely high conductivity, and (with) Site 5, higher suspended particulate matter (SPM) concentrations. All these factors are consistent with the lack of ecology occurring in these drains. All drains failed to meet the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council (ANZECC) guidelines for TP concentrations. All water chemistry parameters showed significant differences between seasons except conductivity. Mean water temperatures and pH were higher in summer and lower in winter, while mean DO levels were higher in winter (and spring) and lower in summer (and autumn). Macroinvertebrate analyses indicated moderate to severe pollution in all the drains, despite the amount of riparian planting present and the presence of macroinvertebrate community structure was related mainly to substrate size.
The degree and type of riparian planting present on the drains studied did not appear to affect TP, SPM, macroinvertebrates or general water quality. This is likely to be due to the fact that little of the riparian planting had been specifically planted for restoration purposes. The highest loads of TP and SPM occurred in winter and spring, and in the larger (wider and deeper) drains. As flow increased in the drain, so did the load of phosphorus and sediment carried. Comparison with Environment Canterbury monitoring data for the river tributaries of the lake indicated that more TP and SPM is carried to the lake by natural rivers and streams, than by the drains, but the latter do make a significant contribution. The percentage of TP that is in dissolved form was higher than had previously been assumed, in both the drains and the larger, natural rivers and streams.
It is recommended that future restoration work aim to reduce the amount of phosphorus and sediment entering the larger drains in winter and spring. More adequate riparian planting needs to occur on these drains, and it needs to be managed in a way that a reduction in dissolved phosphorus levels is also achieved.