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Waikato region

Water quantity

Most water from our region's many rivers and streams maintains instream health and wellbeing of the rivers.  Allocated water is used for hydro, thermal and geothermal power generation, crop and pasture irrigation, domestic water supplies (in particular Auckland and Hamilton) and by factories and one third of New Zealand's dairy herd.

Two thirds of the water allocated from the Waikato region is from surface water and the remainder is from groundwater.   The region is largely covered by three main river systems;  the Waikato River is the largest, followed by the Waihou and the Piako.

The Waikato River co-management framework between Waikato River iwi and the Crown requires co-management between iwi and the Waikato Regional Council on all aspects of management of the Waikato River.

A large amount of water is imported, via the Tonagariro Power Scheme, into the Waikato region from the Manawatu region.  Exports of water from the region are much smaller than the imports and include water to Auckland city and Glenbrook steel mill.

Nearly all of the water allocated or used in the Waikato  is returned after use and available for further allocation downstream.  This can include water passed through hydro-power turbines where all the water taken is returned.  The majority of other activities return a large portion of the water taken directly back to the river after it is used.

The total amount of water allocated (including power station diversions) in the Waikato catchment exceeds 2900 m3/s (equivalent to 250 million m3/day). The average discharge of the Waikato River at the mouth in comparison is only 430 m3/s. This means that, on average, each drop of water is used more than seven times before flowing out to sea.

Domestic water supplies for both urban and rural communities are the largest consumptive water-use sector in the region. The largest individual abstraction is Auckland’s Waikato River take at Tuakau (Mercer to Mouth catchment) of up to 1.7 m3/s. This consumptive take is likely to increase in the future to meet any increase in Auckland city’s water demand. The next largest net take is for Hamilton’s water supply of 1.0 m3/s (noting that treated wastewater from the city is returned to the river). Other sizeable domestic takes also occur for Taupo and Cambridge. Auckland also takes water from two northern subcatchments of the river.

Irrigation water is primarily used in the agriculture and horticulture sectors.

There are five main sectors of industrial water use in the Waikato, namely timber and paper processing, quarrying and mining, steel production, food processing and electricity generation.

Regional Summary
Water quantity data in this region

Regional councils collect information about how much water is available and manage resource consents for those wishing to take water from rivers or groundwater supplies. Use the buttons below to view regional information on: how much water is available, where it comes from and how its used.


Rainfall {{waterAvailable.rainfall}} Runoff to sea {{waterAvailable.runoff}} Groundwater available: {{waterSource.groundwater}}
{{waterSource.groundwaterPercentAvailable}}% of total available
Surface Water available: {{waterSource.surfacewater}}
{{waterSource.surfacewaterPercentAvailable}}% of total available
Town supply
  • How much water is there in this region?

    Rainfall and runoff in this region

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    Rainfall and runoff

    Relative Volume Source Volume
    Rainfall total:
    {{waterAvailable.rainfall }}
    rainfall Rainfall Total {{waterAvailable.rainfall}}
    Runoff total:
    {{waterAvailable.runoff }}
    runoff Runoff to sea {{waterAvailable.runoff}}

    The table above shows the average amount of rainfall the region receives each year and how much of that flows out to sea. These are approximate figures only.

  • Water consents: where does water come from?

    The split between surface water and groundwater

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    Consented water by source

    Relative volumes
    Amount available to consent Surface water:
    available to consent
    available to consent
    Volume consented Surface water:
    volume consented
    volume consented
    Source Amount available to consent Volume consented Consented as a percentage of available
    surface water ground water {{item.source}} {{item.amountAvailable}} {{item.volumeConsented}} {{item.percentageConsented}}
    {{}} {{}} {{}} {{}}

    The table above shows how much water is available to use compared with the amount that is actually consented for use. It also shows how much of this water is surface water and how much is groundwater.

  • Water consents: How is water used?

    Consents by use in this region

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    Annual consented water use by type

    Overall annual volume for {{waterAvailable.year}}
    Relative breakdown
    Activity Percentage of total consented Total volume Number of consents
    {{item.displayText}} {{item.displayText}} - - No data available {{item.breakdownPercentage}}% {{item.totalVolume}} {{item.numberOfConsents}}
    Total {{}}% {{}} {{}}

    The above table shows the proportion of water consented for irrigation, industrial, stock, town supply and other. It excludes hydro electricity. In this region/management zone {{hydroUsage.totalVolume}}/year is consented for hydro-electricity and makes up {{hydroUsage.percentageConsented}}% of the total water volume consented for this region/management zone

Surface Water Zones
Surface Water zones in the Waikato region

Select the water management zone you'd like to see information on by clicking the buttons below or navigate using the map.

Groundwater Zones
Groundwater management zones in the Waikato region

Select the groundwater management zone you'd like to see information on by clicking the buttons below or navigate using the map.