New Zealand has 425,000 kilometres of rivers and streams, almost 4000 lakes that are larger than 1 hectare and about 200 groundwater bodies (aquifers).
Fresh water is among our most valuable natural assets. New Zealand’s rivers, streams and lakes are highly valued for recreational activities, providing a safe drinking supply and sustaining natural ecosystems that are home to many of New Zealand’s native species.
Fresh water is a vital part of the New Zealand economy: it is used to irrigate crops and pastures, dispose of or dilute trade wastes and sewage, and produce hydro-electric energy.
Water is also a fundamental taonga (treasure) for Māori. Māori have cultural, historical and spiritual links with many of the country’s springs, wetlands, rivers, hot pools, lakes and also value having healthy water bodies for mahinga kai (customary food and resource gathering).
By international standards, fresh water in New Zealand is both abundant and clean. However, with land-use practices becoming more intensive, particularly in farming, there is greater demand for water now than ever before, and evidence is building that its quality is declining in many water bodies.
Five national environmental indicators are used to report regularly on New Zealand’s fresh water as follows:
This information has come from the latest state of the environment report, Environment New Zealand 2007.
For more information on other national freshwater indicators see the:
Last updated: December 2007