Water Quality NEMS Draft for Comment available from 20 October 2017

Draft NEMS standard for Water Quality monitoring – feedback by 6 December.

Members have in the past raised concerns about inconsistent and problematic resource consent requirements related to water quality monitoring. This topic is one of many themes that emerged from the resource consent consistency project that is being reinvigorated in 2017-18 (more on the project here).

A draft National Environmental Monitoring Standard (NEMS) has been released for feedback by 6 December 2017 that covers many of the topic areas members have raised in the past. These include water quality sampling, field measurements and laboratory methods as well as quality assurance and coding protocols. The draft standard covers groundwater, rivers, lakes, and near shore coastal waters. The standards are being adopted by regional councils throughout NZ.

This is an opportunity for members to contribute directly towards more consistent and cost-effective resource consent conditions. Click here to view the draft standard and to find out more about providing feedback; some important points are also included below for ease of reference.

NEMS is an initiative involving regional councils and the Ministry for the Environment to develop technical standards for data measurement and handling for a number of environmental parameters. Over several years various standards have been developed by working groups – existing standards and further background on the process and who has been involved can be viewed here.

Important points to note:

Please read the opening pages of each document carefully, as they describe the scope and limitations of the Standard in some detail.

  • Please also “subscribe” to this Standard, so that you are notified of future updates or changes to the document.
  • There are four documents, each relating to a domain (groundwater, rivers, lakes and coast).

This Standard has been prepared principally for field technicians, programme managers and environmental scientists or consultants who collect, quality check or report on discrete water quality data;

The primary focus is on water quality data acquisition (sampling and measurement), quality assurance and archiving associated with long term monitoring programmes, to assess state (condition) and trends through time;

Whilst sampling for other purposes, such as compliance monitoring or microbial monitoring at recreational sites, is not specifically addressed in this Standard, much of the guidance around field measurements, water sample collection and handling, and data management are applicable to other uses of discrete water quality data. This Standard, therefore, provides a normative reference for most discrete water quality sampling and measurements carried out in lakes across New Zealand;

This Standard does not address monitoring objectives, monitoring programme design or data analysis or interpretation. Generally speaking, aspects that affect the quality of the measurement or data is within the scope of this Standard, but aspects that relate to programme design (e.g. objectives, sampling frequency, sampling depth, etc.) or data interpretation are outside the scope of this Standard;

This Standard is also not intended to apply to the monitoring or sampling of potable water supplies. .

The documents use the words “shall” and “should” with a specific purpose in mind – where the former is used, it indicates that it is a requirement of the Standard. This FINAL DRAFT version of the NEMS Water Quality is not intended to be applied until the document is released as Version 1.0 in April 2018. The NEMS Steering Group declines any responsibility for planning or budgeting decisions made based on this DRAFT Standard.


These documents are released publicly to seek feedback from individual and organisations with an interest in water quality monitoring, analysis or reporting. Please follow this link to provide your feedback:

Comments and feedback may be provided until 6 December 2017.

Please note that feedback MUST BE provided via the NEMS website, and feedback provided by any other means may not be considered. This is to enable a streamlined and manageable process when reviewing and incorporating your thoughts and comments.

General guidelines for feedback:

Please include the page number and Section number relevant to each of your comments so that we can easily track and collate them

Where you believe something is, or may be, incorrect or missing, please clearly identify this in your submission along with the suggested amendments and/or additions;

Please be mindful of the scope of this Standard – there is little point in providing comments pertaining to programme design or data interpretation, as they fall outside the scope of this Standard, and will not be able to be incorporated.

Please also note:

Chlorophyll a field measurements (fluorescence): Feedback from those experienced with chlorophyll a field measurements by fluorescence would be appreciated on the calibration and validation of sensors.

The details of some of the listed laboratory test methods are currently being examined in more detail through a literature review and inter-laboratory trial that will be completed before the NEMS is officially released in 2018. Differences in laboratory preservation and analytical practices for nutrients (particularly very low level measurements), chlorophyll a, and some anion and cation test methods are the primary focus of this investigation.

Timeline for the rest of the process:

The opportunity to provide feedback and comments will remain open on the NEMS website until 6 December 2017. Prior to that date, Juliet Milne (Lead writer) and Olivier Ausseil (WQ NEMS Project Manager) will be at the NZFSS Conference, during which Juliet will be presenting on the NEMS Water Quality. They will be happy to discuss the NEMS with you at this time.

After 6 Dec, your feedback and comments will be compiled and systematically addressed by Juliet, Olivier and other parties from the working group and NEMS Steering Group where necessary. Communication about your feedback will not necessarily be entered into unless there are points of clarification required or issues that need more discussion to resolve.

It is intended that the Version 1 of the NEMS Water Quality will be released in April 2018, if not prior, depending on the scope of change required from this Version 0.1 DRAFT. An implementation workshop will be organised in May/June 2018, to provide users with practical guidance on how to implement this Standard.