An invention testing real time E. coli levels in New Zealand waterways has won the 2017 World Wildlife Fund Conservation Innovation Award.

It's the second year in a row South Wairarapa-based WAI NZ has won the WWF award.

Last year it won with a device called River Watch, which recorded a variety of water quality data in real time to a smartphone or the cloud.

"This is about the people of Aotearoa, this is about our country," said WAI NZ Co-founder, Grant Muir.

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"This is about saving lives and also making this environment that we live in better for future generations."

When Muir bought his Wairarapa property at the edge of the Pahaoa River 15 years ago, it was "teeming with fish".

He has watched the health of the river deteriorate over the space of around five years, and most aquatic life went with it.

"The idea was to empower the public because at the moment everyone is feeling so disempowered around the water quality issue," he said.

"What is actually happening is nothing, so the rivers continue to deteriorate.

"There's no mitigation of the pollutants coming into the river and everyone just keeps on talking and absolutely nothing is happening.

"So the idea is to build up a wireframe of water quality data."

River Watch was just one of Muir's innovations, and he hoped to have it on the market early in 2018.

However, the real breakthrough is his world first real-time E. coli sensor, which Muir says needs $5 million to launch.

"The real time E. coli sensor will have a major impact on how we manage our water, how we actually manage our water infrastructure requirements around farming and around towns and cities.

"I can tell you now that this isn't a towny vs farmer scenario.

"Both have equal responsibility because they are both are pooping in the water.

"Until we can get some real time measurements then the public really don't know what's going on."

Muir said millions of dollars were being poured into irrigation projects and not one dollar going into research to mitigate its effects.

He has especially strong words for the Government.

"If they don't work with the new innovators and the new thinking, and they continue to work with this old boy network, then they're stuffed.

"Not only are they stuffed but every single citizen of this country is stuffed because we are the ones that will suffer the results of that poor practice."

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