Reproducibility of river water quality measurements: inter-agency comparisons for quality assurance

We assessed the reproducibility of river state-of-environment (SoE) water quality measurements in the Wellington Region, New Zealand (NZ). Field staff from GWRC and NIWA conducted 29 side-by-side water sampling and in-situ measurements at six river sites of diverse water quality for 12 variables measured routinely in river SoE monitoring across NZ. Field measurements of water temperature, dissolved oxygen, electrical conductivity and visual clarity agreed closely with strong numerical similarity (within 10%). Numerical similarity ranged widely for laboratory measurements, from strong for nitrate-nitrite-nitrogen to weak for turbidity, dissolved reactive phosphorus, and ammoniacal-nitrogen. Numerical agreement was very weak for laboratory pH (which is problematic) and E. coli–which is ‘tolerable’ for many applications given good correlation (R = 0.94) over a 2000-fold concentration range. The findings of our inter-agency comparison have contributed to quality assurance recommendations in the NZ National Environmental Monitoring Standard (NEMS) for water quality.