Farm dairy effluent monitoring programme

Maintaining and enhancing water quality in our rivers and coastal waters.

The Farm Dairy Effluent (dairy effluent) monitoring programme is council’s single largest compliance monitoring programme; accounting for almost 25% of the total number of activities monitored by the regional council.

The programme is implemented to ensure that effluent disposal has no more than minor adverse effects on surface or groundwater quality.  It is fully documented in the Procedures Manual, and is subject to both internal and external quality audits.

In Northland there are approximately:

  • 250 non-consented farms:
    must comply with permitted activity criteria, outlined in rule 16 of the Regional Water and Soil Plan for Northland.
  • 730 consented farms:
    must comply with specific conditions of consent, and the permitted activity criteria.

The dairy effluent monitoring programme:

  • Farms are monitored every year during the period of peak effluent loadings.
  • All compliance visits are non-notified, that is, the dairy farm owners are not informed when our inspectors are to visit.
  • Vehicles are clearly marked with council logos.
  • Where possible, monitoring officers advise farm staff they are present on farm, alternatively a visit note will be left at the dairy.
  • A 'whole of farm' approach is taken. This includes inspection of feed/stand-off pads, stock underpasses, silage storage areas and dead stock disposal.
  • A site information form (SIF) containing specific GPS coordinates and an aerial map are used to specify the location of treatment systems and sampling sites.
  • Where there is a discharge to water, samples are taken and tested.

Water quality samples

When a discharge to water is identified, water quality samples are taken from the following points:

  1. Upstream of the discharge.
  2. At the 'Point of Discharge' – to the waterway.
  3. Downstream of the discharge.

Samples are tested for:

  • Acidity, that is, pH;
  • Temperature;
  • Dissolved oxygen (DO);
  • Faecal coliforms (FC); and
  • Ammonium Nitrogen (NH4).

Any adverse effects are then assessed by comparing water quality upstream of the discharge with that downstream of the discharge.

From the routine monitoring inspections, effluent systems are assessed as either:

  • Fully Compliant (FC);
  • Non-compliant (NC); or
  • Significantly non-compliant (SNC).

Written monitoring reports, including the water quality test results are then provided to the farm owner (or consent holder) by mail.

Download an example of a water quality test results sheet (PDF, 31KB)

Follow-up visits

On-farm 'follow-up' visits are made to all significantly non-compliant farms.

The objective of the visit is to:

  • Identify cause/s of significant non-compliance;
  • Discuss options for improvement; and
  • Agree on a plan of action and timeframes for implementation.

A report detailing the visit and agreed actions is then sent to the farm owner (or consent holder) by mail.

Taking water quality samples.