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Waimakariri River

The Waimakariri River is located in Environment Canterbury's Waimakariri management Zone. It is a large braided alpine river, flowing 151 km from the Southern Alps across the Canterbury Plains to the ocean. The river rises on the eastern flanks of the Southern Alps, eight kilometres southwest of Arthur's Pass. For much of its upper reaches, the river is braided, with wide shingle beds. As the river approaches the Canterbury Plains, it passes through a belt of mountains, and is forced into a narrow canyon (known as the Waimakariri Gorge), before reverting to its braided form to travel across the plains. 

The Waimakariri enters the Pacific Ocean north of Christchurch, near the town of Kaiapoi. Geological evidence indicates that the river mouth has in the past been very mobile, and at times the river flowed through the current location of Christchurch City. Geological evidence also suggests that the Waimakariri flowed into Lake Ellesmere, south of Banks Peninsula.

In Māori, Waimakariri has several meanings, one of which is "river of cold rushing water".
Many tributaries flow into the lower reaches; e.g. the Cust, Cam and Kaiapoi Rivers. The upper headwaters of the Waimakariri are covered by a mixture of native and exotic vegetation with relativity low level landuse activity. In the lower reaches, agricultural intensification and demand for water abstraction has developed rapidly in recent years.

Six sites are monitored on the Waimakariri River as part of Environment Canterbury's state of environment monitoring programme. A further seven tributary streams are also monitored under the programme.

The upper reaches of the Waimakariri River have low dissolved nutrient concentrations, bacteria levels and good aquatic life supporting values (temperature, dissolved oxygen). Concentrations of nutrients and bacterial indicators increase in the lower catchment. This is most likely due to cumulative effects from surrounding landuse pressures (both agricultural and urban) and slightly poorer water quality from inflowing tributaries, such as the Cam and Kaiapoi Rivers. Trends from the last 10 years of monitoring tributary rivers such as Cam, Cust, Ohoka and South Branch/Otukaikino show improving water quality.

Sites 35

Monitored sites in the Waimakariri River catchment

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