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The Rakaia River seen from the air

The Rakaia River on the Canterbury Plains - one of the largest braided rivers in New Zealand

New Zealand's water quality was once the envy of the world, but agricultural intensification threatens to change that. Overuse of fertilisers and increased quantities of animal waste have resulted in more nitrates entering our waterways than ever before.

Nitrate pollution promotes algal growth and starves a lake or river of oxygen, resulting in biodiversity loss and, ultimately, death of the ecosystem.

Current denitrification processes are slow and energy-intensive, but MacDiarmid Institute Associate Investigator Dr Anna Garden, University of Otago, is designing new nanocatalysts that could solve this problem.

Catalytic denitrification is a particularly promising method because, in principle, it could convert nitrate into harmless nitrogen, quickly and without generating dangerous by-products.

Ultimately, we're trying to discover new catalysts that will help us move toward a more sustainable future.

Dr Anna Garden MacDiarmid Institute Associate Investigator University of Otago

More information

More information on denitrification: Annual Report 2016 - page 14