Conservation Innovation Winner Set to Revolutionise E-coli Freshwater Management
The real risk of E. coli freshwater contamination is under the New Zealand spotlight, and now there’s a new game-changer
solution on the way to revolutionise how Kiwis can take action in the national freshwater emergency.
Announced yesterday, 2017 WWF-New Zealand Conservation Innovation Award winner, Water Action Initiative New Zealand (WAI
NZ) is developing a real-time water-borne E. coli contamination sensor that will give community members, regional
councils and government a tool to monitor freshwater in real-time, providing immediate detection of increased E.coli
levels so that swifter action, including early health warnings, can be taken. WAI NZ received a $25,000 Awards grant to
fast-track their idea from concept to development, to maximize impact for conservation.
“Freshwater is the lifeblood of our country, as waterways are essential for the health of people, wildlife and economy,”
said Livia Esterhazy, WWF-New Zealand’s Chief Executive Officer. “From multiple scientific reports and concerning
incidences like the 2016 gastroenteritis outbreak of Havelock North, we know that our freshwater is being polluted and
our rivers and lakes are in trouble. This is a crisis that needs a national-level response, including accurate and
timely water monitoring. We believe that the Real-time E. coli Sensor will revolutionise how freshwater can be tested
with wider benefits for ecosystem health.”
Behind the innovation is South Wairarapa-based WAI NZ, founded by farmer Grant Muir and his son, biologist James Muir.
WAI NZ is a national grassroots organisation that aims to reduce freshwater pollution by using technology to empower the
public to be freshwater guardians.
“Up until now testing for water borne E. coli has been time consuming and often ineffectual with results taking up to 48
hours to incubate in a laboratory,” James Muir said. “Our purpose-built design is a crossover of straight biology with
cutting-edge innovative technology and the results are instant”.
Receiving the Conservation Innovation Award establishes a pathway to refining, developing and manufacturing the E. coli
sensor with collaborative partners ESR (Institute of Environmental Science and Research),” Mr Muir said. “Developing and
commercializing something as ground breaking as this requires a team effort and WAI NZ is welcoming partners and
investors to become part of the team to take this idea through to development and commercialization.”
“We want to see all NZ rural and urban water catchments protected and enhanced for future generations, so winning this
Award is such a boost with a pathway to refine, develop and manufacture the sensor”.
The 2017 Conservation Innovation Awards are supported by The Tindall Foundation, Department of Conservation, Callaghan
Innovation, Predator Free 2050 and New Zealand’s Biological Heritage National Science Challenge.
Testing the water 24/7, the E-coli sensor will transmit GPS-tagged data to the WAI NZ website or regional council sites.
Information can also be accessed by the public using the WAI NZ swimming app. This sensor could trigger interventions
that have wider benefits for instream life and water uses such as mahinga kai and be an easily measured indicator of
effectiveness of restoration activities by communities.
The E-coli sensor will be a valuable tool alongside the RiverWatch Water Sensor (2016 Conservation Innovation Award
winner) which remotely monitors and records freshwater quality. These two amazing ideas provide real, practical and
accessible tools to target New Zealand’s worsening river and freshwater quality, and could have a major impact on the
restoration of our freshwater for generations to come.
For more information about WAI NZ, visit www.wainz.org.nz
For more information about the Awards, visit www.wwf.org.nz/innovation