Dr Blair Miller from Lincoln Agritech is helping to lead a research programme looking into ways to better manage freshwater pollution

Lincoln Agritech to look at freshwater pollution

by Rebecca Doyle

Lincoln Agritech scientists have been awarded almost $8 million in funding to look into ways to better manage freshwater pollution.

The funds for the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment programme were made available through the Endeavour Investment Fund.

Drs Roland Stenger and Blair Miller, along with their environmental research team, are leading a $7.8m programme to upgrade freshwater management.

They will deliver methods and tools for characterising and quantifying transfer pathways at a sub-catchment level.

By defensibly establishing the link between land use and its effects on freshwater quality at the sub-catchment scale, they will enable more effective and spatially targeted land use and management, mitigations and policy.

“To better manage freshwater pollution, we need to find out more about how nitrogen travels from land to waterways at a sub-catchment level,” Dr Miller said.

“We have to understand how quickly nitrogen travels and how much of it is naturally removed by microorganisms as it moves from the soil through the groundwater into a surface waterway.

“Only catchment scale resolution is possible at the moment, but it’s at the sub-catchment scale that the best management and mitigation options are available to prevent nitrogen from getting into our waterways.

“We’ll also be looking at matching land use to existing natural removal capacity or installing mitigations where they have the greatest effect.”

Understanding nitrogen pathways is a high priority for Federated Farmers, and the organisation has endorsed the programme.

The programme aims to help farmers, iwi, industry and councils to achieve community-mandated water quality goals, with all councils requiring a water quality management policy by 2025.

Lincoln Agritech will be working alongside New Zealand regional councils, research organisations, industry and iwi partners to ensure the programme’s success. Collaborators include Aqualinc Research, Lincoln University, GNS Science, Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research Institute, AgFirst and IK and Associates Ltd. The programme is co-funded by the Waikato Regional Council and DairyNZ.