How is surrounding land use affecting our streams? Is there a relationship between water quality and watercress health? The Ko Nga Kowhitiwhiti project is undertaking an investigation with relevance spanning waterway to dinner table.

With increasing changes in land use around Waitara, and the effect this can have on water quality, there is concern within the community that the health of mahinga kai (places to gather food) is diminishing. Kowhitiwhiti – watercress – is an important hua whenua (naturally grown food) that is collected by Māori both for ceremonial purposes, and forms part of the locals’ everyday diet.
With support from BTW Company environmental scientists, Ōtaraua Hapū members and Waitara High School students investigated four sites where watercress is present and collected. The project took a full suite of water quality measurements as well as sending samples away to check the levels of metals and bacteria in the watercress’ flesh.
The Ko Nga Kowhitiwhiti project are planning to work with an engineer to design a grow-your-own watercress system. This could provide a safe to eat alternative to watercress sites that are contaminated, and supplement those that are in a healthy state.