Recreational river users reminded to be vigilant over the warmer months

Environment Canterbury reminds recreational river users to be vigilant while they are out enjoying the rivers over the spring and summer months.  

Eight people were rescued from the Waimakariri River following a flash flood last week.

The rapid rising of the Waimakariri River, following heavy rainfall along the main divide, is not unusual for this time of year, but it is a reminder of how wild Canterbury’s rivers and weather can be.

Nor’ west winds, which often blow warm, across Canterbury are a likely indicator that rain is falling in the mountains.  Heavy nor’ west rain in the mountains may result in a rapid rise in the water levels of the rivers whose catchments go right back to the main divide. These rivers include the Clarence, Waiau, Waimakariri, Rakaia, Rangitata, Waitaki, and Ahuriri.

Environment Canterbury natural hazards officer Phil Lees said: “It will often be a beautiful, hot, sunny day on the Canterbury Plains, yet pouring with rain back in the main divide.  This rain has to go somewhere, meaning the main divide rivers can rise rapidly, as was experienced last week in the Waimakariri River.”

River users – including those 4-wheel driving, camping, boating, jet skiing, swimming and any other activity close to the main divide river – are reminded that it can take extended time for the higher flows to arrive in the lower reaches of the rivers.

“It may take anywhere from a few hours to several days for water levels to rise,” Lees said. “We want people to enjoy their summer but we also want them to stay safe as well.”

If you are planning to visit any of these rivers, or camp nearby, Environment Canterbury advise that you check the latest weather forecast before heading out, as well as monitoring their website to see rainfall data and river flow data.