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How healthy are our rivers?

Photograph of a Pirongia mountain stream

On this page: Our precious rivers and streams, What affects stream health?, Why do we monitor water quality?

Our precious rivers and streams

The Waikato region has more than 16,000 km of rivers and streams. They provide:

  • a place to play, swim, fish, water-ski, kayak
  • a home for aquatic plants and animals
  • a source of food such as koura, inanga, eels (tuna)
  • water for drinking, industry and agriculture
  • hydro-electricity
  • wastewater treatment
  • a source of spiritual renewal
  • a focus for community and cultural events.

In a 2000 survey, Waikato people thought that water pollution was one of the most important environmental issues facing the region.

What affects stream health?

Our rivers and streams have changed dramatically since European settlement. They’ve been dammed, had water pumped out or diverted, waste discharged into them, and exotic plants and animals introduced.

The land draining into these rivers (their catchment area) has been cleared for agriculture, forestry and urban development. These activities all increase the amount of runoff entering rivers and streams.

Many of our rivers and streams are in better condition now than they were in the 1950s, but they continue to be affected by pollution from a variety of sources, including runoff and leaching from agricultural land, stormwater and industrial discharges.

How we manage water quality

Managing water quality and aquatic life is a high priority for Waikato Regional Council. Clean water is vital for both ecosystems and our economy, so we measure water quality every month at 100 river and stream sites in the region, including five sites on the Waipā River, and 10 sites on the Waikato River.

We also survey stream habitat at 125 river and stream sites, including the plants, insects, fish and other animals that make up stream life in the Waikato region.

Check out Waikato Regional Council's indicators of river water quality for ecological health and for contact recreation (for example, swimming).

Find out more about how we measure water quality. Use our map of sites along the Waikato River, the Waipā River and on our other rivers and streams to check out water quality in your local area.

Waikato Regional Council has defined water management classes to manage water use and protect water quality values. Waikato Regional Council manages and requires the monitoring of resource consents to take water or discharge waste water to rivers, or to dam or divert rivers and streams. Tracking changes in water quality assists policy making and consent decisions.

We support Landcare groups in the region that are involved in riparian management such as planting and fencing through staff time and expertise. Over 200 ‘River and Us’ trips involving 100 schools have been run.

For policy information on rivers and streams check out the  Regional Plan (water module) and Regional Policy Statement (water).