Water pollution is considered the most important environmental issue facing New Zealand, according to a Lincoln University survey.
The study, which has been carried out by the university every two years since 2000, is designed to test perceptions about the country's resources.
Rivers and lakes, groundwater, and air quality were judged to be the least well managed resource areas.
The survey identifies farming as the biggest problem for fresh water, with management of effluent and runoff the greatest cause for concern.
Fish and Game New Zealand says the survey shows New Zealanders will not tolerate ongoing degradation of freshwater resources.
Chief executive Bryce Johnson says many farmers see the importance of managing runoff into streams and are working very hard to improve the sustainable management of their farms, but the minority who do not are pulling everyone down.
The survey had 800 respondents with a margin of error of three percent.