Waterwatch provides a unique outdoor experience for schools and community groups. We engage people in assessing the health of their local streams, rivers or ponds in a safe and ecologically friendly way.  The participants undertake a range of hands-on tasks using scientific equipment to monitor the physical, chemical and biological parameters of waterways.

Over 20 years ago we started as an outreach initiative to schools by Lincoln University. We are now independent and operate under Waterwatch Education Trust, a registered charity. Over many years the Rata Foundation (previously The Canterbury Community Trust) has been a much-valued sponsor.



  • To provide schools and community groups with the expertise and equipment to study their local waterways.
  • To provide a free, flexible and accessible programme of hands-on activities that encourage the sustainable management of, and responsibility for, our waterways.
  • To work in partnership with, and provide links between, other water quality and environmental education programmes.


Waterwatch can be used to help your students reach Achievement Objectives from the New Zealand Curriculum and specific NCEA Achievement and Unit Standards. The programme gives years 7-13 students the chance to participate in real ecological practices outside the classroom. It’s tailored to conform with current curriculum requirements and allows the students to analyse and interpret environmental data using modern technology.

Students will be involved in measuring a range of physical, chemical and biological indicators of water quality. Field work times and content are flexible, so Waterwatch can be fully customised to meet the needs of your group. The programme explores key dimensions of environmental education, as described in the Environmental Education Guidelines (Ministry of Education 1999).

Safety is paramount – all Waterwatch educators hold current first aid certificates and fully completed RAMS forms can be forwarded to schools for their records.

In the field studies, Waterwatch involves:

  • Investigating water quality by conducting a range of chemical and physical tests. This can be done at a variety of sites (transects, longitudinal studies, different waterways).
  • Collecting and identifying samples of stream life. Different sensitivities of macroinvertebrates to pollution can be used as a living indicator of water quality. This can also be done at a variety of sampling sites.
  • Process and interpret data and information gathered from the field trip to produce an assessment on stream health
    Provide information on the effects of the measured variables (e.g. dissolved oxygen, nitrates) on water quality and fauna.

The New Zealand Curriculum suggests that students should be confident, connected, actively involved and lifelong learners. The Waterwatch programme encourages students to be actively involved in collecting samples, become connected to local waterways and to consider the future of these waterways and how they can be better protected.


  • All equipment, including waders and gumboots
  • Workbooklet templates (may be personalised by schools)
  • RAMS (to be personalised by schools)
  • Advice for formative and summative learning activities
  • Professional development for teachers
  • Other services upon request.