We all have a responsibility to look after our freshwater. Here are some examples of free or low-cost actions you can take.
You can also check out initiatives the Government is taking to protect and restore our freshwater. Together we can make a big difference.
- Use less water
- Keep drains clear
- Be fussy with what you flush
- Reduce your plastic waste
- Get involved in community projects
- Help prevent the spread of aquatic pests
Water appears to be abundant but it is a limited resource. We need to conserve it. It also takes energy to transport and clean. This produces greenhouse gases which are bad for our planet.
Simple ways you can reduce your water consumption
Turn off the tap while brushing your teeth
- This saves about four litres of water each time.
Take shorter showers or install a low-flow shower head
- You’ll save about 16 litres of water for every two minutes you reduce your shower by.
Use the half-flush on your toilet if you have one
- The half-flush uses about three litres of water compared to the full-flush which uses between five and six litres. If you only have a single flush cistern, consider replacing it with a dual-flush cistern.
Only run appliances like your dishwasher and clothes washer when they are full
- Each dishwasher cycle typically uses between 28-40 litres of water. If you are doing a smaller load of washing use the half or lower level setting for smaller loads.
Choose appliances that are water efficient
- When buying an appliance such as a clothes washer or dishwasher consider choosing one that uses less water. This can be determined from the appliance’s water efficiency rating. Find out about choosing a water efficient appliance
Water your garden at night to reduce evaporation
- Consider installing a rainwater tank to collect and use rainwater for gardening. The added benefit of this is that you have your own water supply should there be a water restriction or in times of emergency.
Replace lawns with native plants
- Maintaining a grass lawn uses 80 per cent more water than maintaining native plants. Native plants also provide food and shelter for birds and other wildlife.
- For tips go to Planning and planting a native garden [Department of Conservation website].
Consider a grey water system for your home
- Reusing your laundry, bath, basin and shower water to water the garden or flush the toilet is an efficient way to reduce your water use. Before you install the system, contact your local or regional council for advice on what consents you will need.
Storm water drains carry water to nearby rivers, lakes and the sea to prevent flooding. It’s important that litter and chemicals don’t get into these drains as they can pollute waterways and harm aquatic life.
Ways to prevent litter and chemicals entering your local drain
Avoid washing your car on your driveway
- If possible, wash your car at a carwash as they have high quality filters in their drainage systems which remove chemicals before they enter the drain. Otherwise, wash your car on grass and away from drains using as little detergent as possible.
Dispose of chemicals responsibly
- Ensure paints and solvents are disposed of correctly by reading the label. You can also contact the seller or your council for the best disposal methods in your region.
Pick up litter you see entering drains or just in general
- This prevents the litter from entering the drains and being washed into your local waterway.
Consider the weather and neighbourhood pets when you put your rubbish out
- If the weather is windy or you have a lot of neighbourhood cats it’s better to put your rubbish out the morning of collection. That way, there is less time for the bag to get torn and the contents to get out and into the nearest drain.
- Read tips on looking after your drains on the Greater Wellington Regional Council website. You local council website may also have tips.
It’s important that you only flush the three Ps down the toilet
Only flush pee, poo and paper (toilet paper). Items such as tampons, pads, wet wipes, medicines, nappies, cloths, paper towels, cat litter, fat, oil and grease can block the wastewater system and cause overflow issues.
It’s also important to not flush or release aquarium contents into our drains or waterways because they can upset the natural ecosystem.
Find out more about what not to flush on the Auckland Council’s Watercare website.
It has been estimated that rivers export up to 2,750,000 tonnes of plastic globally to the sea each year. See Export of plastic debris by rivers into the sea [American Chemical Society website].
Plastic pollutes the water and is harmful to aquatic life. Plastics can also break down into microplastics that can be ingested by fish and other aquatic animals. Reducing the amount of plastic that enters our rivers and estuaries can help fix this problem.
Great ways to improve your local waterways include litter removal, riparian planting and wetland restoration.
To find events or initiatives in your region, check out:
- the Department of Conservation (DOC) Getting involved section
- LAWA's listing of community events
- your local councils see Council maps and websites
- your local iwi or hapū (see Te Kāhui Māngai - Directory of Iwi and Māori Organisations) local action groups — your council will have contact details, and some can be found on the Naturespace website
- local action groups — your council will have contact details, and some can be found on the Naturespace website
- projects like the Litter Intelligence project on the Citizen Science website
- activities your local schools may be involved in.
Freshwater pests can be spread by your activities in and around waterways. If you're moving between waterways you must clean all your gear using the 'Check, Clean, Dry' method.
For ways to prevent pests from spreading between rivers and lakes, see advice on the Ministry for Primary Industries website: