International comparisons

Compared internationally, New Zealand has an abundance of fresh water. New Zealand is ranked 4th out of 30 OECD countries for the size of its renewable freshwater resource on a per capita basis. Within New Zealand, allocated water comprises less than 5 per cent of its renewable freshwater resource.

In 2007 New Zealand had the 2nd highest water abstraction per person out of 26 OECD countries. This result reflects our low population and relatively high use of consented water for agricultural irrigation. However, latest available data shows that New Zealand had the third lowest water withdrawal as a share of total water available out of 29 countries in the OECD. This shows that although abstraction may be high per capita, there is a plentiful water resource available at a national level.

Ranking of water abstraction per capita for OECD countries in 2007

Ranking Of Water Abstraction Per Capita For OECD Countries In 2007


Data source: OECD. 2010. OECD Factbook 2010. Economic, Environmental and Social Statistics, Paris: OECD.

Ranking of water withdrawals as a percentage of gross annual availability for OECD countries (using latest available data).

Ranking Of Water Withdrawals As A Percentage Of Gross Annual Availability For OECD Countries (using Latest Available Data)


In 2006, the OECD average for total weekly allocation of water used for irrigation was 43 per cent. In the same year, New Zealand’s average total weekly allocation for irrigation was much higher at 77 per cent. The use of water by manufacturing and industry and for public water supply is generally low in New Zealand compared with more populous countries in Europe and North America.


The latest information on allocation in New Zealand can be seen in the following publication: Update of Water Allocation Data and Estimate of Actual Water Use of Consented Takes 2009–10.