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3.1 Water Resources

Background and Explanation
The Waikato Region’s distinctive character is largely derived from the scenic and aesthetic impressions of its lakes, rivers and wetlands*. The character of Waikato’s water bodies is diverse, reflecting the large variety of water types including the Waikato River, Lake Taupo, wild rivers, mountain streams and ground water. Associated human uses and values of these water bodies* are diverse and range from domestic and community water supply, irrigation, drainage, electricity generation and waste assimilation through to recreational use and fishing. Water bodies are vitally important to the Region and need to be managed in a sustainable manner. This will ensure that those uses and values, and the natural character of water bodies and their margins, including amenity values, visual characteristics, contact recreation, fisheries, wildlife and aquatic habitat are provided for.

The natural environment is an interconnected system and the processes that occur between water, land, and vegetation are complex and interdependent. It is artificial to deal with these as separate components, and efforts have been made in this Plan to identify and maintain the linkages when creating objectives, policies and methods to manage these resources. Water is a key component of the environment as it is the sustainer of life and the transporter in the system. Water is therefore in demand to sustain and promote life, and the transport or carrying role means that poor resource management in one area can impact on a large downstream area.

A wide range of resource uses place pressure on water resources. Whilst some water bodies contain naturally high levels of some heavy metals or dissolved colour, the introduction of contaminants* from human uses into water bodies can have a significant effect on water quality. Contaminants can be introduced from either point sources or non-point sources:

    1. Point sources* include:
      1. industrial discharges
      2. sewage discharges
      3. stormwater systems
      4. farm effluent discharges


  1. Non-point sources* include:
    1. surface run-off from intensive land uses
    2. stock in waterways
    3. agrichemical application
    4. fertiliser application
    5. leaching from land uses such as agriculture
    6. diffuse discharges in urbanised areas.

Waikato Regional Council will address non-point source discharges through a combination of education and encouragement and conditions on permitted activities, to gradually change identified inappropriate farming practice. However, more stringent conditions and standards may be used in regulatory methods in the future if no improvement in water quality is detected.

Other pressures occur from the taking or impounding of water. This can affect the availability of the resource and its quality and impact on the associated aquatic ecosystems.

Table 3-1 provides information from the SOE Report about water quality in seven zones based on river catchments and broad ecological features, including geology, climate (altitude, winter temperature), vegetation cover and land use. Table 3-1 indicates that the quality and recreational status of the lower catchments of the major rivers is moderate to poor.

Table 3-1 General Water Quality Status of the Main River Areas

River Area Aquatic Ecosystem Health Contact Recreational Status
Upper Waikato River Good Good
Lower Waikato River Moderate Poor
Upland Waikato Moderate Poor
Lowland Waikato Moderate Poor
Hauraki Moderate Poor
Waipa Moderate Poor
Coromandel Good Moderate
West Coast Good Poor
Taupo Tributaries Good Good

For the Lower Waikato River, three major discharges contribute about 20 percent of the summer load of nitrogen to the river as a whole,while the remaining point sources probably contribute less than 10 percent. This means that non-point sources and the accumulation of small discharges have a major effect on lowland water quality. Point source loads are even less significant as sources of faecal bacteria to the river as a whole. In this case, three major point sources contribute less than 5 percent of the total faecal load found in the lower river. The other point sources are small by comparison, with the three largest discharges indicating that most of the bacteria in the lower river must come from non-point sources. The main sources of these contaminants are likely to be from stock in waterways, effluent discharges to water and run-off from intensive agricultural land uses.

Geothermal Water*
Resource management issues concerning geothermal water, as defined by s2(1) of the RMA, are specifically identified and discussed in Module 7 of this Plan. Refer also Section 3.1.3 of this Plan.

Coastal Marine Area (CMA)*
Waikato Regional Council has an RCP that addresses the management of the coastal resources of the CMA. This Plan recognises the importance of the CMA and acknowledges that it is important to manage the freshwater resources of the Region so that they do not adversely impact on it.

Tangata Whenua
Waikato Regional Council considers it important that the management of water resources in the Region reflects the values and aspirations of both Maori and non-Maori.

For further information refer to Module 2, Matters of Significance to Maori.

Issue and Objective
The following issue and objective are applicable to all the chapters in this Water Module. They set the higher order issues and will be cross-referenced throughout the document. A brief discussion will be found in each chapter describing the relationship of the objective to the issue addressed in the chapter and integration matters. The policies that describe what Waikato Regional Council will do to achieve the objective are found in Chapters 3.2 to 3.9 of this Plan and are developed specifically in relation to the issue addressed in each of those chapters.

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