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Clutha River

The Clutha River/MataAu catchment lies across the breadth of Otago with a catchment area of 21,022 km2. It is the largest catchment (area)and river (flow volume) in New Zealand.

The Clutha River/Mata-Au has a mean annual flow of 575 m3/s of which approximately 75% is derived from the catchments which feed lakes Hawea, Wanaka and Wakatipu. 

The catchment areas (km2) of the Clutha River/Mata-Au tributaries (from upstream to downstream by confluence) are as follows: Makarora River (745km2), Matukituki River (801km2), Hawea River (1473km2), Cardrona River (347km2), Luggate Creek (123km2), Lindis River (1039km2), Dart River (631km2), Rees River (405km2), Shotover River (1091km2), Mill Creek (14km2), Fraser River (327km2), Manuherikia River (3026km2), Dunstan Creek (297km2), Teviot River (332km2), Tuapeka River (249km2), Pomahaka River (2060km2), Heriot Burn (143km2), Waipahi River (339km2), Waiwera River (208km2), Waitahuna River (406km2). The lakes in the catchment include Lake Wanaka, Lake Hawea, Lake Dunstan, Lake Wakatipu, Lake Johnson, Lake Hayes, Lake Roxburgh, Lake Onslow, Lake Tuakitoto

The mainstem of the Clutha River runs generally north-south, and is about 250 km from the headwaters to the sea. The headwaters of the catchment are predominantly in rugged, steep terrain with the highest point, Mt. Aspiring, reaching 3027m. Numerous headwater streams such as the Dart River (sampled at Glenorchy Road) and Matukituki River(sampled at West Wanaka) arise along the eastern boundary of the Southern Alps and are generated from permanent glaciers.

The upper Clutha River is joined by many tributaries including the Hawea River (sampled at Camphill Road), the Cardrona River (sampled at Mt Barker), Luggate Creek (sampled at SH8), the Lindis River (sampled at Lindis Peak and Ardgour Road), the Kawarau River and the Manuherikia River (sampled at Galloway, Ophir and Dunstan Creek).

In contrast, the mid-sections of the catchment consist of relatively broad valleys dissected by rolling, block mountains ranging from 1000 to 1600 m. The mid Clutha river is joined by two major tributaries, the Fraser River (sampled at Marshall Road) and Teviot River (sampled at Roxburgh).

The lower catchment is dominated by alluvial plains and lowlands, it is joined by the Pomahaka River (the main stem sampled at Glenken and Burkes Ford) and Pomahaka tributaries (sampled at Waipahi River at Cairns Peak, Waipahi River at Waipahi and the Heriot Burn), the Waitahuna River (sampled atTweeds Bridge) and the Waiwera River (sampled 1km above Clutha).

Approximately 24 natural and artificial lakes occur within the catchment including Lakes Wanaka (sampled at outlet), Wakatipu (sampled at outlet), Dunstan (sampled at Dead Mans point), Hawea (sampled below dam), Hayes (sampled at Bendemeer Bay and Milll Creek) and Johnson (sampled at outlet). Of the larger lakes, Wanaka and Wakatipu are unimpounded and Hawea, Dunstan, and Roxburgh are dammed. Other significant artificially controlled storage reservoirs include the Fraser Dam on the Fraser River, Lake Onslow on the upper Teviot River and Falls Dam, Manorburn Reservoir and Poolburn Dam in the Manuherikia catchment. Lake Tuakitoto is located in the lower Clutha catchment.

During the summer there is weekly monitoring at some sites. See the Otago Regional Council website for details.

Sites 14

Monitored sites in the Clutha River catchment

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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.


Samples are collected monthly and bimonthly at this site. Proposed national guidelines suggest monthly sampling is required for trend analysis. Therefore, any trends shown here are less robust than those calculated from data that is solely collected monthly. New Zealand's councils are currently reviewing their sampling procedures and aim to adjust their sampling frequency to monthly. This will increase the robustness of the trend analyses.

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

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