Search all sites near me now
Search your favourite swimming spots
Warning in effect for sites in this catchmentRead more


The Manawatu River catchment covers an area of 5,898 square km. The river itself is 235 km long with a total stream length in the catchment of 9,648 km. The catchment has a number of large tributaries including the Oroua (131 km), Mangatainoka (71 km), Mangahao (86 km), Pohangina (71 km) and Tiraumea (69 km) rivers.

The headwaters of the Manawatu River are situated in the Ruahine Ranges, northwest of Norsewood. The river is unique in that it begins on the eastern side of a main divide and winds its way to the Tasman Sea on the western side of the range at Foxton Beach. This means the river predates the geological formation of the ranges.

The river's name comes from the Māori words manawa (heart, spirit) and tū (stand still, or depressed) and Manawatu translates to heart standing still with sadness. It was named by Haunui who was in pursuit of his wife when he arrived at the river clutching his chest. The river was the key transport route for Rangitaane o Manawatu and continues to have great cultural significance for them and other iwi including Ngati Raukawa and Ngati Kauwhata.

The major land use in the Manawatu catchment is agricultural (70%) with more than 50% used for sheep and beef farming while dairy farming accounts for 17%. Native bush, mostly within the conservation areas of the Ruahine and Tararua Ranges, accounts for a further 17%. Palmerston North is the largest urban area within the catchment with many smaller communities serving agricultural areas.

Water quality in the Manawatu catchment has declined over recent decades. However, Horizons is taking action to halt the decline and begin reversing the trend. Discharges of untreated sewage and industrial effluent, once common in the Manawatu, are no longer permitted to be pumped into the river.

The Manawatu River Leaders Forum, organised by Horizons, brought together environmentalists, industry, agriculture, local government and iwi representatives to commit to improving water quality in the catchment. The signing of the Manawatu River Accord in 2010 was a breakthrough in acknowledging that water quality needs improving, and the 2011 action plan lists the tasks and responsibilities of each group.

Some sites are monitored weekly during the summer. Check the Horizons website for more details.

Sites 57

Monitored sites in the Manawatu catchment

...retrieving sites.

No sites found.

Show more
Scientific Indicators
Scientific data for this catchment

This dashboard shows information on the data collected by the regional councils for water quality indicators, analysed as state and trend.

The state for the catchment is represented by the median concentration for the parameter across all sites within the catchment and then compares that value to the quartiles for all monitored sites in New Zealand.

Click on the parameters state icons to compare this catchment with others in the region.

  • State

    State shows how the median of samples from this site compares to other sites

  • Trend

    Trend shows how the quality of water is changing over time. Depending on the sampling history duration, five and ten year timescales are available:

Can I trust this data?

The Cawthron Institute has worked alongside regional councils to verify the processes and methods used for data collection, laboratory analysis of samples collected and the statistical analysis and interpretation of the results presented.

If all Cawthron ticks are green, then you can trust this data. However, if one or more ticks are orange, then conclusions should be treated with some caution.

For more details on each tick, see our 'Can I Trust This Data?' Factsheet.

Can I trust the data?
Data Collection

All samples were collected using approved field protocols and have been analysed in accredited laboratories. Therefore the data shown here has been collected and analysed following best practice.


All samples were collected using approved field protocols and have been analysed in accredited laboratories.

Trend - Adjustment for flow

This data is not flow adjusted. National guidelines suggest that flow-sensitive variables are flow 'adjusted' before trend analysis. Therefore, any trends shown here may be affected by variations in flow across sampling occasions.


E. coli



Black disc





Total Nitrogen


Total Oxidised Nitrogen


Ammoniacal Nitrogen



Dissolved Reactive Phosphorus


Total Phosphorus

Download Data

.ZIP file of indicator readings for all sites in New Zealand

 LAWA Partners shall not be liable, whether in contract, tort, equity or otherwise, for any loss or damage of any type (including consequential losses) arising directly or indirectly from the inadequacy, inaccuracy or any other deficiency in information supplied irrespective of the cause.  Use of information supplied is entirely at the risk of the recipient and shall be deemed to be acceptance of this liability exclusion.