Canterbury is New Zealand’s largest region, with 45,238 square kilometres of diverse landscapes. It is home to New Zealand’s highest mountain (Aoraki/Mount Cook), more than 400 lakes, over 78,000 km of rivers, and some of the country’s most productive farmland. The population of Canterbury was 552,800 at June 2008, with 368,900 living in Christchurch. This makes Canterbury the most populated region in the South Island and the second most populated in New Zealand.
Increased demand for freshwater in Canterbury, particularly for farming and business activities, means that these resources need careful monitoring and measurement to achieve effective and sustainable water allocation and management.
To this end, Environment Canterbury maintains a large network of several hundred water quality monitoring sites throughout the region, plus groundwater recorders and rainfall recording sites.
The Regional Council has also played a key role in the development, funding and implementation of the Canterbury Water Management Strategy. Launched in October 2009, the strategy is a vision for the sustainable use of water and a unique approach to complex water allocation and management issues.
Canterbury has been experiencing declines in water quality in recent years, with lowland streams having the poorest quality. Immediate steps to improve water quality, for instance by enhancing biodiversity along waterways, have been built in to the Canterbury Water Management Strategy from the outset.