What you can do

He mahi ka taea e koe

Navigating how to help protect freshwater in our community isn’t always easy. However, by learning more about our everyday impacts we can begin to make feasible lifestyle changes that lessen these impacts. Below are practical ways you can participate in our collective journey towards healthy ecosystems and community wellbeing for future generations.

Hands catching a stream of water


Knowledge is a driving force towards action.

The Water Conservancy has created an online tool that makes it easy to estimate the extent of your personal water usage. Calculating your ‘water footprint’ is a great first step in better understanding how you currently use, and misuse, freshwater.


Turn the shower on only when you’re ready to get in. If you’ve got a roomy shower, collect the initial cold water in a bucket and use it for the garden or house plants.

Water plants early in the morning to reduce evaporation. Water deeply twice a week, and for no more than 30 minutes, to toughen plants and encourage their roots to grow deeper.

Scrape food scraps into the compost bin, instead of rinsing dirty dishes before putting them in your dishwasher. Most dishwashers are designed to clean very dirty dishes.

Break the ‘wear once and wash’ habit, so you do less laundry—and your clothes will last longer too.

Accept a dry lawn over the summer. Brown grass is dormant, not dead, and it will recover naturally after enough rain.

Turn off the tap while you brush your teeth. You could be wasting around a bucket of water a day. That’s over 4,300 litres per person, per year!

For other water tips from your local council, click here.


Reap the environmental benefits of native planting on your property!

Replacing some of your lawn space with low maintenance planting of native species such as Harakeke (New Zealand Flax), Mingimingi, Karamū (Coprosma species) and Makura (Carex species) is a great way to help reduce urban pollutants from entering our waterways.

Unlike a typical grass lawn, these plants act as buffer zones, absorbing pollutants and excess nutrients that would have otherwise become stormwater runoff. Plus, they help bring more wildlife to your property such as native tui and korimako (bellbirds).

For more information on Native Plants of the Upper Clutha click here.


Fertilizers are well known for helping give our soil and gardens a nutrient boost.

However, overusing fertilizers can cause excess nutrients to move into both groundwater and stormwater runoff.

An overabundance of these nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) can have negative effects on the health of rivers and lakes and, in some cases, can even lead to Harmful Algae Blooms (HABS).

Next time you go to reach for your fertilizer while gardening, remember to only use the smallest amount necessary, and always avoid using fertilizers when it is raining or expected to rain that day.


The stormwater drains in our urban areas are crucial to controlling large rain events and keeping our roads accessible.

What many people don’t know, however, is that everything that ends up in our stormwater drains eventually flow into our lakes and wetlands, untreated.

Therefore, when a car is washed on a driveway or road, the cleaning products used (soaps, glass cleaners, etc.) are picked up by stormwater as runoff and eventually make their way into our waterways. Stormwater pollution can lead to detrimental effects on our freshwater environments and freshwater species.

kids with ephemeral sculptures with a message

As the saying goes: Only rain down the drain!

Never tip paint, oil, thinners, insecticides or other contaminants down a stormwater drain (or any drain). Contact Wastebusters or your local paint shop to find out how to dispose of leftover paint, or give it to someone else.

Clean your car on the lawn using biodegradable detergent or, even better, take it to a car wash that recycles water and detergent.

Sweep up leaves and grass clippings and put them on the garden or in the compost instead of hosing them down the drain.

For more local info about Stormwater, check out QLDC’s website here.


Joining an urban catchment group is a great way to get involved, have a voice and make a difference in our community.

WAI Wānaka is currently working towards helping establish an array of urban catchment groups in our community. Each group will determine their own priorities and will be supported and facilitated by WAI Wānaka.

Learn more about WAI Wānaka’s Urban Catchment Groups.


Citizen scientists are volunteers who contribute to scientific projects, usually by collecting or analysing data.

Citizen science projects are opportunities for everyone in the community to learn new skills while also gathering meaningful data about our environment.

WAI’s education team is currently facilitating two new citizen science projects: Secchi Disc water monitoring (coming soon) and Fluker Post photo monitoring.

Interesting links to other Citizen Science projects around Aotearoa:


We all live busy lives. Sometimes this means we are not able to give our time towards on the ground action or advocacy.

By donating to a local environmental organisation you are directly helping to keep environmental projects functioning so that longer-term goals can be reached.

WAI Wānaka relies on public donations to help with projects related to education, outreach and community wellbeing. Working alongside WAI are many other local organisations doing amazing mahi to protect our environments.

Donate directly to WAI Wānaka

To check out other organisations doing great mahi in the catchment click here.

More awesome things to do: