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Upper and Lower Waitaki Catchment

The Upper Waitaki Zone (UWZ), which includes the Mackenzie Basin, is a large intermontane basin running between the Southern Alps and the Waimate foothills that forms the headwaters of the Waitaki River catchment. The catchment covers 96,579 km and is the largest area monitored by Environment Canterbury. It contains a network of small spring-fed streams, large gravel braided rivers fed from snowmelt and glaciers, an extensive hydro-electric scheme of canals and lake outlet dams, and large lakes that are mainly managed for power generation.

Fourteen sites are monitored in the UWZ as part of Environment Canterbury’s state of environment (SoE) monitoring programme. The sampling site locations are representative upper reaches of alpine and inland (intermontane basin) spring-fed rivers.

There is currently a move away from the traditional low intensity sheep and cattle grazing on improved tussock grasslands to areas of more intensive agricultural systems to allow ‘finishing’ of dry stock, or even more intensive systems such as dairy farms or cropping. As with many areas, intensified land-use activities currently pose the greatest risk to Canterbury’s waterways.

Water quality generally remains high, but there are indications of declining water quality in association with increasing land development, water use and increased livestock density.

Sites 34

Monitored sites in the Upper and Lower Waitaki Catchment catchment

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