A developed nation that stands top in comparison in every part of the national performance is behind at one thing. 

Although New Zealand, an island country in the southwestern pacific ocean, is known for its clean and green image, there is a little-known fact that freshwater rivers in New Zealand are among the worst in the world.

According to New Zealand’s environment minister, two-thirds of all rivers are unswimmable, and three-quarters of New Zealand’s native freshwater species are threatened with extinction. Below is the list of New Zealand pollution causes:

1. Agriculture

Due to the excessive fertilizer increase in agriculture to increase soil fertility, water resources are worse than ever. 

The fertilizers contain nitrogen. The fertilizers mix up with the nearest water resource. Nitrogen, in excessive amounts, promotes the growth of algae.

Algae is the biggest threat to water as it overgrows and clogs water. Algaes consume oxygen and block light to deeper water. 

This phenomenon is also known as eutrophication. This process makes aquatic life underwater impossible to get subsistence oxygen and brings them to the verge of extinction. 

2. Industry

industry - New Zealand water pollution
A warning sign of water pollution at Waimakariri River, New Zealand (source)

New Zealand’s industrialization has a more significant play in water pollution. Industries use water resources to produce their goods, and when it is their turn to throw up wastage, they do not even think about the environment and dump it in water sources anyways. 

Throwing waste in rivers has become a trend in New Zealand’s industries. They have incorrect perceptions about how plans to discard the waste correctly will use up a lot of money, workforce, and time, but they don’t realize the pollution it causes to dump waste anywhere.

Fonterra, a New Zealand multinational company publicly traded dairy cooperative, has been discharging milk wastewater in the tui river. Tasman pulp and paper mills have discarded their waste into the Tarawera river since 1955. 

3. Water Mixing Up

Although New Zealand has one of the best sewage management globally, some places are still left out of this service. 

In those places, sewage breaks up and enters the water resource. This cause alone is the largest constituent of water pollution in New Zealand.

In urban places, mineral deposits, such as zinc, copper, lead mix up with the water in the road and follow up to the nearest water source. 

Usually, the soil absorbs all the contamination from the water. Since the route cannot operate that function, organic matter mixes up with fresh water in the source.

4. Acid Rain

New Zealand heavily relies on fossil fuels. About 60 percent of New Zealand’s energy comes from fossil fuels. We all are well acquainted with the adverse effect of fossil fuels on the environment.

When fossils are burnt, it releases harmful gases in large amounts. The gases will react with other gases in the atmosphere and create acidic pollutants known as acid rain. 

The acidic pollutants mix up with the rain. During the acid rain, the biodiversity is profusely disturbed. The water will not be in its pristine form. Thus, creating water pollution. 

5. Mining

Mining - New Zealand water pollution
Hauraki Goldfields, New Zealand (source)

Large coal and gold mines are found in New Zealand. Mining is carried out to take out the minerals from the deposits. 

It seems that mining is creating many issues in the New Zealand environment. One of them is acid mine drainage. 

Acid mine drainage (AMD) is the runoff produced when water comes in contact with exposed rocks containing sulfur-bearing minerals that react with water and air to form sulfuric acid and dissolved iron. 

This runoff pollutes the fresh water and threatens the species in water. The government stepped up and closed some mining operations because of the significant impact of AMD on the waterways and even invested in cleaning up the mess caused by mining.

6. Landfills

Although landfills are decreasing rapidly in New Zealand, there are still enough landfills to create water pollution. 

Landfills, even with intricate design, cause water pollution. What happens is all the waste is dumped into the landfills. 

When it rains, leaching occurs. Leaching is the process of water filtering through landfills, absorbing the contaminants in landfills, and carrying them to the freshwater source.

It is predicted that the waste deposited in landfills will almost double within ten years in Auckland alone. Currently, Auckland, the capital of New Zealand, alone throws 1.6 million tonnes of waste in landfills.

7. Deforestation

Deforestation - New Zealand water pollution
Deforestation of Newzealand before and after human settlement (source)

Another fundamental cause of water pollution is deforestation. Although now the forest is saved under legal protection, in the past, deforestation was escalating. 

In 2020, New Zealand lost 8.53 Kha of natural forest. When people start to cut more trees, the soil held tight by the roots of a plant renders loose, causing soil erosion. 

Soil erosion increases the sediments in the water source, thus, affecting biodiversity and water quality. Due to heavy deforestation in the past, soil erosion in New Zealand is not slowing down.

8. Oil Spillage

We know that vehicles pollute the air; however, it also pollutes the water. The oil that leaks from cars is washed into drains and flows into the river or lake. 

Even a single drop of oil can contaminate a whole lake. Oil and fluid breaks contain metal that is menacing to the aquatic wildlife.

This incident in New Zealand is considered the worst oil spillage in decades. Almost four tonnes of oil were spilled in New Zealand harbors and the ocean. 

Many attempts were carried out to clean out the oceans. It all seems futile as once the harm is done, there is no way to reverse it back.

9. Population growth

The population of New Zealand is growing with an annual growth rate of 2.1 percent. Overpopulation will strain the resources to their limits. 

Conflicts could arise on the supply of water. The ways to use water could differ from one to another. As water is required to sustain more people, more requirements could exploit the water in every possible way from its source.

10. Global Warming

global warming - New Zealand Water Pollution
The temperature rise of New Zealand past and future (source)

Global warming is a cause of every major problem globally, including water pollution. It disrupts the weather patterns and increases the air temperature, which is the cause of the rising water temperature. 

When the temperature in water changes, it heavily affects biodiversity. When biodiversity is heavily involved, water in the source will not be maintained. Thus global warming is a massive cause of water pollution in New Zealand.

Wrapping up

Even developed countries like New Zealand are away from the solutions to water pollution. It takes time to solve water pollution. 

It takes effort from every individual willing to fight for the cause. Strict rules need to be implemented to solve water pollution. 

To some extent, New Zealand has been able to control the wrath of water pollution, but there is more space for improvement. But we cannot say the same for Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and some major rivers around the globe.

Saurav Khadka, with his A levels in computer science from Saipal Academy, owns a keen desire to know more about the environment. He wants to preach his knowledge to others by learning through his hobbies; reading, writing, traveling, and watching movies. He believes sharing his insight regarding a sustainable environment will undoubtedly generate positive perceptions in the people.