Waterways on or by schools

As a board of trustees, you need to take special care with waterways on or next to your school. Waterways include areas like rivers, the sea coast, wetlands and marginal strips. You need to ensure the school’s activities don’t damage the waterways, or overuse resources.

Identifying waterways around your school

Your school might have some of these waterway features on it or next to it:

  • the sea coast
  • a lake
  • a river or stream
  • a wetland
  • drains
  • a reserve, strip or margin set aside for conservation, public access or recreation
  • a flood management area
  • a storm water catchment management area
  • an area of land identified with significant natural environmental features or value.

The waterway may be noted on your local regional or district council plan. It may have specific controls and limitations.

You must take special care with school activities to avoid:

  • disturbing habitats
  • reducing water flow
  • causing erosion
  • contamination.

Doing property work around waterways

Before doing any work that might affect a waterway, check with your local council. The work might include:

  • building a structure, like a shed, classroom, fence, bridge or dam
  • laying a road
  • installing pipes or cables
  • planting or removing trees and other plants
  • putting some property into our disposal process.

Find out if there are restrictions around the waterway. We recommend you get specialist planning advice before starting.

Releasing surplus property for disposal

Looking after waterways

Prevent damage to waterways by making sure:

  • buildings or structures don’t interfere with a flood bank or flood plain, for example, by redirecting floodwater
  • there’s good planting on the edges of streams and rivers to increase bank stability
  • barriers and access structures are in good condition
  • contaminants, such as paint, don’t get into the waterway
  • dams, weirs or culverts allow fish to move up- and downstream.

For more information about looking after waterways, contact your local council or your property advisor at your local Ministry office.

Local Ministry offices

Taking water

If you take water, such as from a lake or a bore, make sure you don’t:

  • cause a loss of habitat by taking too much
  • increase the risk of floods by damming or diverting water
  • use up an entire underground aquifer.

Protecting the waterway while taking water

Look after the waterway by doing these things.

  • Always fit a screen on the intake so fish won’t be affected.
  • Make sure the intake doesn’t block the river or stream and fish can move freely.
  • Clear debris from the intake regularly.
  • Make sure the lid and casing of a bore are properly sealed so the underground aquifer won’t be contaminated.

Contact your local council about the rules for taking water.

Council maps and websites — Local Government NZ(external link)

Draining your swimming pool and safely discharging water

Pool water contains chemicals that can harm the environment. To help reduce the need to discharge your pool water:

  • keep the water at a proper chemical balance all year around – this means the water will stay cleaner for longer and won’t need to be emptied as often
  • look for ways to reduce the amount of water that’s discharged by recycling the water.

Discharging pool water to a sewerage system

Wherever possible, discharge your pool water to the municipal sewer. The sewerage system will treat the water.

Check with your local council about the amount of water you can discharge.

Discharging pool water onto land

If you cannot discharge the water into the sewerage system, the next best option is to discharge it onto land. To minimise any harmful effects:

  • leave the pool water for one week without adding chemicals before emptying it
  • don’t discharge water onto playing fields if the land is unstable and prone to slips 
  • don’t discharge water where it will flow into storm water systems or waterways
  • make sure it doesn’t flow onto neighbouring properties
  • spread the water onto a large area so it doesn’t pool
  • make sure the pool water is at air temperature before discharging it.

Discharging into a waterway or a storm water system

If there is no other option, you may need to discharge your pool water into a waterway or a storm water system. Minimise any harmful effects by:

  • waiting at least 2 weeks since you last added chemicals
  • adding a de-chlorinator to help remove chlorine
  • having the water tested by a professional to make sure the chlorine concentration is less than 0.5ppm and the copper level is less than 0.2ppm
  • making sure the pool water is at air temperature before discharging it
  • emptying the water slowly so it can be absorbed more easily into the waterway or storm water system
  • ensuring the discharge doesn’t cause erosion or scouring, for example to river banks
  • not emptying the pool when it’s raining as it could cause flooding.

Protecting the quality of storm water

Storm water is rainwater that’s carried to a waterway. Storm water isn’t treated. Make sure the storm water system is kept clean and safe by:

  • pouring all liquid waste, such as cleaning water, down a sink or toilet
  • not allowing wastewater to be discharged into the storm water system
  • not tipping oil, paint or chemicals down a storm water drain (wash paintbrushes in an inside sink)
  • keeping the school free of litter (so it can’t be washed into the drains)
  • washing cars and equipment on grass
  • taking care when discharging water from the school pool as it contains chemicals that can harm the environment
  • taking care when spreading agrichemicals.

How to maintain a school pool

Contact your local council for more information about how to dispose of hazardous materials.

Council maps and websites — Local Government NZ(external link)

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