Thursday, September 23, 2010

Water Quality Monitoring Reviewed

The Ministry of Marine Resources (MMR) is currently reviewing its water quality monitoring programme, including lagoon and stream water quality.

Dorothy Solomona, MMR’s Assistant Director of the Pearl Division, is currently working with Drs Els Maas and Dave Bowden, funded by the harmonised New Zealand / Australia aid programme, to statistically analyse three years of water quality data (2007-2009). This data is important to assess the impact of developments on the health of local lagoons and streams, which are vital for the welfare of local communities and the environment.

After three years, the focus of the programme is now on local staff training in order to create a sampling programme that is not only financially sustainable but robust and able to provide the information needed for the improved management of water quality in the lagoon and streams.

In addition, Dr Mandy Meriano of the University of Toronto, is doing a scoping study for a proposed groundwater sampling programme in the Muri/Avana area on Rarotonga as part of the Muri-EU Water and Sanitation Project.

“What MMR hope to get out of this is a groundwater monitoring progam that will not only monitor the quality but also progress or impacts of the EU Water & Sanitation Project on the groundwater, if any,” says Solomona.

The sampling programme will determine the quality of groundwater particularly in terms of nutrients and bacteria.

Solomona says the Ministry of Marine Resources has a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Infrastructure and Planning with respect to water quality monitoring.

“Dr Meriano is working closely with Paul Maoate of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Planning,” says Solomona.

Lagoon water quality can be affected by groundwater quality.

“The scoping study will ask what is already known about our groundwater and how quickly the groundwater flows to the lagoon, information about how long it stays in the ground and what the quality is.” says Dr Maas.

The scoping study report will be presented to MMR who will disseminate the report to the Muri-European Union water and sanitation project and other stakeholder groups.

MMR are also doing intensive sampling in the Muri area to complement the Muri-EU water and sanitation project.

“Since August this year we’ve been doing fortnightly sampling and have included two extra marine sites and eight extra freshwater streams. We’ll be doing this for six months,” says Solomona.

Dr Maas says there will also be a training course primarily for government agencies on how to sample water, how to test water quality and how to interpret data

“We want to show the techniques used in testing water quality and demonstrate the limitations of those techniques,” says Dr Maas.

The training course is planned for the end of November.

“A select few places may be offered to stakeholder and community groups who have an interest in water quality,” says Dr Maas.

She says to contact Ms Solomona at MMR for more information and registration details.

Dr Maas says she will be returning in February 2011 to wrap up on the harmonised New Zealand / Australia-funded water quality program that was established in 2006.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Workshop for Pig-keepers

Muri Environment Care and the Ministry of Agriculture organized a workshop on 16 August for people in Muri who keep pigs. The workshop was to demonstrate ways to improve management of piggery waste. The National Environment Service was asked to present relevant sections of the Environment Act. Te Ipukarea Society was invited to talk about different methods for managing piggery waste.

“The cheapest option is to convert to dry litter farming but this requires extra work, shoveling spoiled litter and replacing it with new litter every six weeks,” says Jacqui Evans of TIS.

“There also needs to be a regular supply of dry litter. Overseas they use sawdust and straw. It’s been suggested that we trial dried green waste,” says Evans.

Dry litter farming, if done properly, also produces much less odour than conventional sheds. Less water is also used because it is not required for cleaning and only required as a drink for the pigs.

Evans also presented the Public Health Piggery Waste Policy and Public Health Piggery Odour policy which she drafted whilst in the Ministry of Health.

Tupe Short demonstrated his mulcher and offered mulch to anyone interested in dry litter farming.

The next steps are for at least one pig-keeper in Muri to trial the dry litter method and monitor its progress.

Piggery waste has caused problems in parts of Rarotonga where wash-water from piggeries is hosed into streams affecting freshwater and marine biodiversity.

Rakei Toa and Cook Islands Sports Academy experience conservation work in the TCA

Ian Karika took Kevin Iro’s youth groups Rakei Toa and Cook Islands Sports Academy on a tour of Takitumu Conservation Area (TCA) operations.

The objective was to give the groups a taste of what conservation work is like.

Speaking of the young people on the tour, Karika says that often kids don’t really show a lot of interest, but there might be one or two who may look at conservation as a career option in future.

“It might plant a seed in their minds,” he says.

The TCA consists of three valleys making up 155 ha and is home to many plants and animals including one of the Cook Islands endangered birds, the Kakerori (Rarotonga Flycatcher). This bird was on the brink of extinction in 1989 with a population of only 29. Work to control the ship rat which attacks Kakerori nests has enabled the population to increase to over 300 in 2010. The TCA is now receiving financial assistance from the Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund (CEPF) until 2012. It is hoped that a Trust Fund could be established to continue its work thereafter.