New Zealand has an extensive network of freshwater systems including mountain streams, braided and meandering rivers, lakes and groundwater resources.
Demands for fresh water are increasing in some regions and cities, and shortages can be felt at certain times of the year. The national weekly water allocation for uses such as irrigation, domestic use and for manufacturing nearly doubled between 1999 and 2010. Hydroelectric power generation also uses large volumes of fresh water and impacts on the availability of fresh water downstream.
Increasing demands combined with current trends in climate change reinforce the need for careful management to protect water in New Zealand.
We need to ensure there is sufficient water to meet the needs of all users, including for recreational activities and cultural values. Properly allocating and efficiently using available water will enable New Zealanders to gain the most from their resources. The Government is working to improve water management, but there are also many things we can do to be more efficient with water in our homes.
This section of the site provides information on reports, monitoringenvironmental reporting, policy and, regulations, projects, and partnerships, and guidelines and tools which relate toabout freshwater availability and use
Environmental reporting draws together information and data about the current state of the environment, trends, and effects of human activities on the environment.
The Ministry reports regularly on New Zealand's demand for fresh water.
In the freshwater reform paper 'Freshwater reform 2013 and beyond', the Government proposed a regulated National Objectives Framework. This sets national bottom lines to ensure all rivers and lakes are suitable for ecosystem health and human contact like wading and boating. This Framework will cover both the quantity and quality aspects of water management.
The National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2011 requires councils to set objectives and limits for each of their water bodies, halt further over-allocation, and set targets for eliminating existing over-allocation over time.
Regulations requiring significant water takes to be measured and reported will provide more accurate information about water use. See Resource Management (Measurement and Reporting of Water Takes) Regulations 2010.
Water conservation orders may be applied over rivers, lakes, streams, ponds, wetlands, geothermal water or aquifers. If granted by the Minister, a water conservation order can restrict or prohibit water ‘takes’, discharges and other uses of the water.
WELS, or Water Efficiency Labelling Scheme helps New Zealanders save water. The scheme involves attaching a label, which indicates both water efficiency and consumption, onto household products such as whiteware and plumbing equipment.
A National Environmental Standard on Ecological Flows and Water Levels has been under consideration to promote consistency in deciding whether there is sufficient variability and quantity of water flowing in rivers, groundwater systems, lakes and wetlands.
The development of Treaty-based engagement with Māori on water management is a primary aim of the Fresh Start for Fresh Water reform programme.
The Waitaki Catchment, in the South Island's Canterbury region, is important for renewable energy and irrigation, and for its natural, recreational, community and fishery values. In 2005 an independent board established the Waitaki Catchment Water Allocation Regional Plan.
The Sustainable Water Programme of Action (2003-2008) was a policy programme to improve freshwater management under the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA).
The flow guidelines for instream values detail a consistent process for setting a flow regime in a river and discuss the techniques available for setting these regimes.
Evaluation of low flow guidelines for instream values evaluates the flow guidelines from the perspective of regional council staff involved in water allocation, and identifies means by which the flow guidelines could be improved.
The National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2011 webpage links to further guidance.
Last updated: 26 September 2013