DSCF8889 optThe health of the lagoon and reef is important for the welfare of the people. It is vital that the health of
the lagoon is monitored and action is taken to protect the health of the lagoon, coral reef and the people that use it.

Human activities can contribute to

poorer water quality, for example from waste from the farming of pigs, deforestation and farming crops close to streams. 

"The water quality monitoring programme gives an evaluation of the state of the streams and the lagoon, and
can be used to identify issues that need to be addressed"

The Ministry of Marine Resources in collaboration with the National Environment Service, Infrastructure Cook Islands and
the Ministry of Health, undertakes the monitoring of stream, lagoon and groundwater in the Cook Islands.

The programme is funded by European Union, NZAID and AUSAID.

The objective of the monitoring is to provide baseline data:

  • to assess the health of the lagoon
  • to provide information to make good management decisions.

The monitoring programme was initiated in 2004, and has been audited by New Zealand's National Institute of Water and
Atmospheric Research (NIWA) since 2007. Laboratory and sampling regime protocols are subject to regular developments along
with continuous staff training to ensure the production of sound results.

What parameters are monitored and how are they monitored?

  • Nutrients
  • Nitrogen (Ammonia and Nitrates ) and Phosphorous (Phosphates) are elements that can be found in fertilisers, washing powders
    and human or animal waste.  They are normally present in water in small amounts and are needed for the growth of plants and algae. If their
    concentration becomes high, an excessive amount of algae will grow which can be harmful to corals and be of public health concern.
  • Faecal Pollution

A major concern worldwide regarding water quality is the pollution caused by human and animal wastes. The presence of
bacteria Enterococci sp is monitored as an indicator of such a contamination. The higher the number of Enterococci bacteria, the
more likely the faecal pollution.

Oxygen levels

The dissolved oxygen (DO) levels indicate how much oxygen is in the water. This oxygen is needed by the organisms living in the
water and its amount follows a daily cycle. Low DO levels indicate a disturbance in the ecosystem such as an algal bloom.

Water clarity

Water Clarity is assessed by two parameters:

  • The amount of Chlorophyll α 
  • Suspended Solids in the water

Chlorophyll α levels indicate the amount of algae (and other microscopic plant materials) in the water. Suspended solids are silt, mud and
organic matter found in suspension in the water. High levels in those parameters are responsible for the cloudy aspect of water and can harm coral reef.

Other physical parameters

Temperature, pH and salinity are also monitored. They provide important baseline information, any variation from the baseline levels can indicate a
disturbance in the environement.  For example, a rise in the water temperature could favour algal bloom. Or an excessive amount of fresh water
entering the lagoon could disturb pH and salinity and unbalance the marine ecosystem.





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