Love Our Lakes

Lakes campaign, poster

Find out more about how poo impacts water quality

If you're one of the thousands of Cantabrians that head to the lakes over summer to enjoy a classic Kiwi camping experience then check you’re doing all you can respect the environment during your trip.

The simple things you can do to Love Our Lakes are to always use the public toilets (one poo can close the lake!), get rid of any rubbish responsibly, wash clothes or dishes away from the lake and take measures not to spread aquatic weeds (Check, Clean Dry). Following these steps will reduce your impact on the water quality of our lakes and protect the native plants, animals and birds that live here as well.

Check out more below:

Four easy ways to Love Our Lakes

Use the toilets provided

When visiting our lakes it’s important to use the public toilets provided to protect the waterways from pollution. 

Bacteria and other pathogens from poo can make swimmers very sick and affect mahinga kai; food gathering and the māuri (life force) of the water. If bacteria levels reach the level for health warning, the recreation area may be closed, which can affect thousands of holiday-makers.

It only takes a small amount of poo to cause a health alert. If you’re looking after babies or toddlers that aren’t toilet trained, make sure they wear a swim nappy. Dog poo can also be harmful so scoop up any dog poop and dispose of it in the rubbish.

If you’re travelling in a campervan, remember improper disposal of toilet waste can contaminate water, damage the environment and is culturally offensive. Use disposal facilities for any campervan sewage waste.

Find out more about how poo impacts water quality and what you can do to keep our lakes poo-free.

Be responsible with your rubbish

If you’re planning a trip to the Upper Waitaki lakes, make sure you’re responsible with your rubbish and use the bins provided (or take it home with you). Rubbish in the waterways can impact both the water quality and the wildlife that lives there.

A good idea is to pack your own picnic to reduce food and drink rubbish when visiting your favourite lakeside spot.

It may take a little more planning but going retro – using plates, a flask, and reusable containers – really cuts down on the rubbish that’s left when you pack up your picnic. The difference is surprising; a couple of apple cores versus a bag of rubbish!

Ideas for a low-waste picnic

  • Use a picnic set rather than disposable plates and cutlery.
  • Fruit is a great low-waste option.
  • Aim to pack sandwiches at home rather than buying prepackaged items.
  • Use beeswax wraps or reusable containers for storing food.
  • Remember to pack a reusable drink bottle rather than buying bottled drinks.
  • Make some popcorn for snacks.
  • Don’t forget some yummy home baking brought in a cake tin or container.
  • Pack a face cloth for wiping hands and faces rather than paper serviettes or baby wipes.
  • Take a flask and re-usable coffee cups for hot drinks.
  • Make sure you either take home any waste or dispose of it in provided waste bins.
  • Remember to use the public toilet facilities provided!

Which picnic option is best?

Which lunch? Barb Gilchrist (Water Zone Committee member for Orari Temuka Opihi Pareora) compares a low-waste picnic to a packaged/bought one

After picnic waste

The difference in leftover picnic waste between the two lunches

Wash clothes and dishes away from the water (and not in the lake)
Our lakes and rivers are not a drain – so make sure you do your washing in a tub and dispose of all soapy water properly, preferably down a dedicated camp bathroom or kitchen drain.

Soaps and detergents can harm the tiny wildlife that lives in our waterways so it’s important not to tip any leftover washing water into the lake or river.

If you have no access to camping facilities: When cleaning and washing in open waterways, take the water and wash far away from the water source. Drain used water into the soil to allow it to be filtered. 

And don’t forget - improper disposal of toilet waste can contaminate water, damage the environment and is culturally offensive. Use disposal facilities for any campervan sewage waste.

Check, Clean, Dry

Some of the aquatic pest species present in New Zealand exist within our region, but many of our lakes and rivers remain pest-free. You can help keep it this way.

Prevent aquatic weed invasions

  • Check boats, trailers and anything else that was in the water, including your dog’s paws if your dog is in the water with you, for any plant material and remove it. Leave debris at the site or, if you find any later, treat and dispose of it in the rubbish. Do not wash down drains.
  • Clean all equipment (eg, nets, machinery, footwear and clothing) thoroughly with an appropriate decontamination solution before putting it in any new waterway.
  • Dry - if you can't clean your gear or animals, restrict use to a single waterway OR dry completely to the touch inside and out, and leave to dry for at least another 48 hours.

For more, visit our dedicated Check, Clean, Dry webpage.

About Love Our Lakes

Love Our Lakes is a promotional campaign to encourage recreational lake users to respect this special environment. It is run by the Upper Waitaki Water Zone Committee who are local people focused on what people can do to protect the environment and waterways.

Over the 2020/21 and 2021/22 summers our focus has been on raising awareness on why we all really need to use the toilets and not poo in or near the lake. The main reason is that poo from humans (and dogs as well) can contain harmful bacteria that makes people sick. If these bacteria get into the water, we may need to advise that a swimming area is closed until the water quality improves.

Help share the campaign message

Lakes campaign, poster download

Download a poster (PDF File, 114 KB)

Campaign activities and key information

Put waste in a bin or take your rubbish with you. Love our lakes. Video length: 03:00.

Love Our Lakes campaign video

Our community posters are also available for download.

Water quality at swimming sites

We regularly monitor water quality at popular swimming spots around Canterbury over the summer.

Results are available through Land, Air, Water Aotearoa (LAWA) – New Zealand's most comprehensive source of water data.