Lakes, Rivers, and Streams

Everyone wants lakes, rivers and streams that are safe to swim in, gather food from, and that support healthy ecosystems.


Issues for lakes, rivers and streams in Otago

Water quality and levels are determined by a number of natural factors, such as rainfall, but are also influenced by human activities such as run-off from construction sites, industry, forestry, tourism and farming.

Water quality in rivers across Otago show a clear spatial pattern related to land cover and land use. Water quality is best at river and stream reaches located in high or mountainous areas with predominantly native vegetation cover. These sites tend to be associated with the upper catchments of larger rivers (e.g. Clutha River/Matau‐Au, Taieri River and Lindis River) and the outlets from large lakes (e.g. Hawea, Wakatipu and Wanaka). Water quality is generally poorer at sites located on smaller, low-elevation streams that drain pastoral or urban catchments.


What is ORC doing to protect lakes, rivers and streams

ORC's environmental monitoring team test water monthly to check its quality. The results are recorded and added to State of the Environment reports (SOE) which can be found here. SOE monitoring results are based on five years' of data taken when the flow site was at or below median flow. 

Like all regional councils, ORC provides SOE information to Land Air Water Aoteoroa (LAWA) to add to their national database. Check Otago results here. Note that the LAWA site also has information during summer months about water quality of popular swimming spots in the region. This is collected weekly, and is different from SOE data, which gives a longer-term view of water quality.

Our current water plan includes rules that are designed to give farmers, foresters and other rural landholders the freedom to skilfully manage their land to ensure good water quality in Otago waterways. This water plan is now under review - read about upcoming water plan changes that will provide further protection to Otago waterways here.

Read more about water quality targets here.


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