New satellite technology being developed by Waikato University is to be used to trace pollution into waterways from farms and other sources.
The technology is being trialed by the university on some Rotorua lakes.
It combines measurements taken by buoys on the lake which monitor temperature and nutrient and algae content, with images taken by satellites.
Waikato University Professor David Hamilton says regional councils do not have the resources to constantly test the lake's water quality.
He says the university is using high-frequency measurements, taken from the lakes every 15 minutes, to verify information collected from satellite pictures.
The technology will allow councils to establish a cause and effect relationship between land-use and changes to the lake's water quality.
Professor Hamilton says it could also be used to tell whether programmes such as the Clean Streams Accord, a partnership between Fonterra, regional councils and central Government, to improve water quality, is producing its desired results.
Ultimately, he says, the research could be used to make long and short-term predictions about what effect land uses will have on lake water quality.