New report gives clearer view of Canterbury’s high-country lakes

Many years of data on water quality have been analysed and collated into a report that gives an in-depth look at Canterbury’s iconic high-country lakes.

The report analyses data gathered from 36 lakes in the Canterbury high-country between 2005 and 2019 to give a picture of the state and trend of water quality in each lake.

Download the report: 

Report findings a mixed bag

The report’s findings are mixed, with the large, deep lakes generally maintaining very good water quality, while the many of the smaller lakes have water quality concentrations above the objectives set in the Canterbury Land and Water Regional Plan.

Measures used to determine the state and trend of the lakes include nitrogen, phosphorus, phytoplankton, turbidity, macrophyte numbers as well as generalised indicators like the Trophic Level Index (TLI) and recreational water quality (E. coli).

Challenges for the future

The main challenges to water quality in the high-country lakes are development, land-use intensification and climate change.

Director of Science Dr Tim Davie said the data gives an important overview of how the lakes are faring.

“We know how special these lakes are to the people of Canterbury, and it is important we ensure they have robust protection,” he said.

“The information in this report is valuable for assessing the robustness of current protections and helps understand the need for further protection to keep the lakes as special places."

Davie said Environment Canterbury is actively engaging with landowners in high-country lake catchments to further reduce nutrient runoff.