RiverWatch – Making a big splash to save our rivers By Water Action Initiative (WAI) NZ

Pledgeme projects

About RiverWatch – Making a big splash to save our rivers

Project 2017-05-31 15:42:21 +1200

93% of New Zealanders believe that we have a freshwater crisis – how can we save our rivers?

Water Action Initiative (WAI) NZ has developed an innovative piece of technology, the RiverWatch. A water tester that tests water quality 24/7 and sends the results GPS tagged to the WAI NZ open access website. 

Winner of the 2016 WWF Conservation Award & finalists in the 2017 Wellington Gold Awards

Scientifically accurate data

The RiverWatch water sensor tests many water quality parameters to help determine freshwater health. It tests for:

  1. Temperature
  2. Dissolved oxygen
  3. pH level
  4. Turbidity
  5. Conductivity
  6. Water-soluble nitrates*
  7. Water-soluble phosphates*
  8. E. coli*

*(currently under development)

Above: Early RiverWatch test data by students at Victoria University.

Why do we need water quality data?

Only 8% of Aotearoa's 450,000km of rivers, lakes and streams are tested for water quality. This is because current testing practise is expensive and time consuming. With so little information it is impossible to know if our water is safe to use.

Above: Click to enlarge the above diagram.

Riverwatch keeps watch on our water

The River Watch water sensor has an integrated design, accommodating up to seven interchangeable water quality probes. It is inexpensive, at one tenth the cost of similar sensors on the market. RiverWatch has been developed and manufactured by local people for New Zealand conditions.

The team

The RiverWatch Team

Above from left: Joanne Jackson, James Muir, Lila the River Dog, Grant Muir.

Where will the money go?

Milestone 1: Beta Testing $50,000. 

Milestone 2: Design, Testing & Production of Final Prototype Before Commercialisation $100,000

Milestone 3: Commercial production of RiverWatch $200,000

Milestone 1: $50,000

Pledged funds will be used to build ten RiverWatch water sensor that will be sent to selected beta testers throughout New Zealand. Our beta testers will use RiverWatch in their local conditions and report back to us.

Beta testing is an important phase before commercialisation of a product. This will ensure the RiverWatch is optimised for Aotearoa conditions. Because RiverWatch is a scientific instrument, the beta testing phase requires considerable resourcing prior to production of the final prototype.

Milestone 2: $100,000

Pre-production of RiverWatch

  • Design validation, incorporation of beta testing results into final design and testing
  • Manufacturing plan, tooling and construction of dies, electronics and web based interface for RiverWatch
  • Final build and design of RiverWatch.

Milestone 3: $200,000+

RiverWatch Production

  • Secure manufacturing premises, staff and supply chain
  • Regulatory submissions, product verification, certification and warranties
  • Packaging, design, marketing and distribution
  • Logistics planning, sales and operations
  • Technical servicing and staff training
  • Continued research and development for addition of E. coli, Nitrate and Phosphate sensors

Milestone supercalifragilisticexpialidocious: over $350,000 pledged

Expansion of RiverWatch

We believe that Kiwi’s care enough about the quality of our freshwater to reach this milestone. This will allow quick and efficient distribution of RiverWatch throughout New Zealand. 

The data collected from RiverWatch will provide a wireframe of information about the quality of our rivers, lakes and streams. Having this information available in real time could ultimately save lives and improve the health of the communities we live in.

This milestone will also allow RiverWatch to continue development of accurate Nitrate, Phosphate and E. coli sensors.

All proceeds from RiverWatch sales will be re-invested back into freshwater conservation for New Zealand’s rivers, lakes and streams.

This is a world first, created and manufactured in Aotearoa New Zealand. 

Kaua e kōrero mo te awa, kōrero ki te awa.

Don’t talk about the river, talk to the river.

Above: Poster rewards (click to enlarge).


The People Behind RiverWatch – Making a big splash to save our rivers



    04:58PM Fri 15/09/17 on RiverWatch – Making a big splash to save our rivers

    We have added a new reward!  You can have your own copy of the award winning RiverDog documentary on DVD.  It is the story of one farmer's fight to save his river with the help of a pack of working dogs.  If you pledge $50 you will receive this award winning film.  There are only 100 available, so do it now.



    Comment on this update:

    Race to the top!

    04:58PM Thu 14/09/17 on RiverWatch – Making a big splash to save our rivers

    RiverWatch is about our children’s future

    Declining water quality is something all of us have been seeing for quite some time. Rivers and streams that once used to provide an abundant resource for fishing have, in many cases declined to such an extent that there is no aquatic life left at all. Rivers and lakes that we enjoyed swimming in are now green with algae or muddy brown. This has been the case for my beloved Pahaoa River that runs around my farm in Hinakura. In 2002, it was alive with fish, literally jumping out of the water. Fly rods always hung at the back door, for family and visitors alike to catch a feed.

    Ten years later in 2012, the river was dead and devoid of aquatic life. Its fish are long gone, washed up dead on its shores for lack of oxygen and a life-sustaining environment. Over the years I made many attempts to draw this to the attention of the regional council and my neighbouring farmers whose farm practice was a major contributor to the aquatic decline. The river and my concerns appeared on many national television programmes and the award-winning documentary River Dog. Every time I discussed the degradation of the Pahaoa River with those in authority, I was told to ‘prove it’. It seems that without sound scientific water quality data from the river nothing could or would be done to enforce the already existing environmental standards.

    I was determined to at least try to save this river, as many Kiwis will empathise with me, when it comes to rivers and streams you have your favourites. They become part of your family. You get to know them and love them. And it is heartbreaking when you watch them die. So, with the help of Victoria University’s Doctor George Allan and Winston Seah of the Computer Science and Engineering faculty we began the RiverWatch project.

    Over the next five years we worked with students to build and develop accurate and robust water quality monitoring technology and data dissemination platform. As we worked on the project we realised how unscientific the water quality data being collected by authorities was. Also, the data was not robust because it was collected at a single point in time and did not reflect the overall condition of where the sample was taken from. We also discovered that turbidity (sedimentation) was the primary cause of habitat loss for aquatic species. In fact, New Zealand has ten times the world average of sedimentation. So much so that water quality testing instruments from other countries, costing tens of thousands of dollars, did not work in our extremely muddy waters. When designing RiverWatch, we refined the testing parameters so that the most useful data was collected. Stuff that is important to swimmers, anglers and human life.

    In 2016, we finalised and built our first working RiverWatch prototype. This was tested for accuracy alongside regional council instrumentation and integrated into our data collection platform on the WaiNZ website and RiverWatch app. The prototype was awarded the WWF Conservation Innovation Award 2016 and with the $25,000 award we continued to develop RiverWatch for release into our rivers. We also approached many organisations and farming leaders engaged with water use, but they had little appetite for testing water quality, so we continued to fund RiverWatch from our own resources.

    By mid-2017, we had built prototype version three that tests for turbidity, conductivity, temperature, pH level and dissolved oxygen 24/7 at predetermined time intervals. Alongside this, we had also developed an IOT, LoRa communication platform for remote areas and integrated data collection for real time web browser connection.

    We now turn to PledgeMe and the New Zealand public, hoping that your support and enthusiasm for clean water would get us to the next stage of RiverWatch development – building ten prototype units for beta testing throughout the country. The campaign finishes on Monday 18 September 2017. Every pledge counts and all we need is 950 people with $20 to make this happen!

    Comment on this update:

    Yes! We have an extension.

    09:54AM Tue 05/09/17 on RiverWatch – Making a big splash to save our rivers


    Yippee!  We have been granted an extension by the generous people at Pledge Me, to reach our target.  We are now live until Monday 18 September, 9pm.  Thanks to all of you who have supported us and pledged.  We appreciate everything that you do.  Please continue to share our clips with your friends and colleagues.  We only need 1000 pledges of $20 each, to make our target.  Keep up the good work!

    - RiverWatch Team.


    Comment on this update:

    Feedback from one of our supporters.

    11:13AM Mon 04/09/17 on RiverWatch – Making a big splash to save our rivers

    E rere kau mai te awa nui nei

    Mai i te kāhui maunga ki Tangaroa

    Ko au te awa

    Ko te awa ko au.


    The river flows 

    From the mountains to the sea

    I am the river

    The river is me.


    By caring for our rivers, we are caring for ourselves and the future of our mokopuna.  This is a cool kaupapa - tino pai.


    -Ty Kahu

    Comment on this update:

    You need to pledge to see this update.

    Andre Pinkert (ESR) visits RiverWatch's home (Pahaoa River, Martinborough) to discuss E. coli sensor development.

    12:28PM Thu 31/08/17 on RiverWatch – Making a big splash to save our rivers


    RiverWatch is working with ESR to develop an accurate and cost effective way of monitoring E. coli pathogens in our rivers, lakes and streams.


    Andre and the RiverWatch team.

    Comment on this update:

    A game-changer solution to New Zealand’s freshwater emergency, WWF-New Zealand Conservation Innovation Awards winner the RiverWatch Water Sensor is heading towards commercial market production.

    11:14AM Wed 30/08/17 on RiverWatch – Making a big splash to save our rivers

    World Wildlife Fund Chief Executive Livia Esterhazy comments on the need for the RiverWatch water tester in the latest edition of Scuba News:


    "From multiple scientific reports, we know that our freshwater is being polluted and our rivers and lakes are in trouble,” Ms Esterhazy said. “This is a national crisis and requires a national level response, including accurate and timely water monitoring. Rivers are the lifeblood of our country and communities deserve and need to know the condition of their waterways. Clean, safe waterways are essential for the health of people, wildlife and economy.”


    See the full article here:


    Comment on this update:

    RiverWatch: 6 days to go on PledgeMe!

    12:34PM Tue 29/08/17 on RiverWatch – Making a big splash to save our rivers

    Thanks to everyone who has supported us and pledged so far – we really appreciate it!

    We welcome your support to reach our target – tell all your friends and family, and help us to make our water healthy and swimmable.


    We are currently working with New Zealand scientists to develop water soluble nitrate and E. coli sensors that can be put in our rivers, lakes and streams to get an accurate picture of what is really going on.

    Feel free to email us at [email protected] with any questions, thoughts, or to find out how you can help, and follow us on Facebook at fb.me/RiverWatchNZ to stay up to date.

    Comment on this update:


      Avatar square
      Anonymous pledger
      2017-08-15 08:50:34 +1200

      This pledger has chosen to pledge anonymously

      Grant Muir
      2017-08-14 19:42:34 +1200

      Grant Muir has pledged on 2 campaigns

      “lets get this technology out there”

      2017-08-14 18:19:16 +1200

      Simon has pledged on 6 campaigns

      Tim Dallas
      2017-08-14 16:28:44 +1200

      Tim Dallas has pledged on 2 campaigns

      “I cant wait for this to go global ,Thanks Grant and team for all your hard work to get this up and running ”

      Monique EyeballKicks
      2017-08-14 14:04:40 +1200

      Monique EyeballKicks has pledged on 2 campaigns

      Followers of RiverWatch – Making a big splash to save our rivers

      This project was successful and got its funding on 18/09/2017 at 9:00 PM.