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Kakanui River

The Kakanui River catchment has an area of 894 km2

The catchment is contained by the Kakanui Mountains and Pisgah Spur (1634m) to the west and south. In the north, the catchment is separated from the Waitaki catchment by rolling hill country. The main tributaries of the Kakanui River are the Kauru River (catchment area 143 km2), Island Stream (122 km2) and Waiareka Creek (213 km2).

Water quality in the upper Kakanui River is excellent.

From its source in the Kakanui Mountains, the Kakanui River flows north-east for about 40 km, through gorges incised in rolling or downland country, before emerging onto plains at Clifton. It then flows south-eastwards at a gentler gradient through highly developed pastures to be joined further down the widening valley by the broad, gravel-bedded Kauru River. It flows into the Pacific Ocean 10 km south of Oamaru.

The Kakanui River’s water resource is heavily used for irrigation purposes. The river has three minimum flow sites to manage water quantity, but recently concern has been expressed about agricultural intensification and subsequent degradation of the water quality.

Over the past ten years, land use in the catchment has intensified rapidly. The lower Kakanui and Waiareka Creek are dominated by a mixture of beef/sheep/deer/cropping and, increasingly, dairy farming, particularly since the introduction of irrigation water into the Waiareka Creek catchment.

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

Sites 4

Monitored sites in the Kakanui 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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