He puna wai, he puna tāngata. The pool of water sustains the pool of people.

We help ensure that we have enough clean, fresh water today and in the future.

How are we doing now?

Over the past twenty years, rural land use in Canterbury has changed and the amount of nutrients reaching waterways has increased. This has led to a decline in water quality in some areas. There is also less water in our region than in previous years. This is as a result of a long period of dry weather, which may continue for some time, and a dramatic increase in demand. In Canterbury, groundwater use now surpasses out-of-river water use. We can’t increase the amount of water in the system, but we can work to ensure the water we have is managed in the most sustainable way possible.


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We monitor water quality, rainfall levels and riverflow around Canterbury.

What do we need to do?

Our management of water has immense significance for the region’s future productivity, the maintenance of ecosystems and the purity of our drinking water. We need to tailor solutions to individual catchments, of which there are thousands in Canterbury. We need to work with communities to deliver the outcomes communities want, in a collaborative manner — beyond simply setting and enforcing rules.

Ecan Water catchment

A catchment or river basin is the area of land bound by natural features such as hills or mountains, from which surface and sub-surface water flows into streams, rivers and wetlands. Everyone lives in a catchment.

A way forward together

We know that water is highly valued and that people who live and work in Canterbury have significant expectations around water quality, water use and quantity. It is also an issue that creates significant tension and debate. Our way of working is set out in the Canterbury Water Management Strategy. It provides a collaborative framework to help manage the multiple demands on our precious water resource. The overarching vision of the strategy is ‘to gain the greatest cultural, economic, environmental, recreational and social benefits from our water resources within a sustainable framework both now and for future generations’.

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We've put our people where the discussions, issues and solutions are. We’ve moved many of our operational staff out into community-based zone teams.

What is happening in my zone?

Decisions on water allocation and nutrient management are driven by recommendations from zone committees in 10 areas, which are made up of community members, rūnanga and council representatives. Members are appointed for three years and seek feedback and opinions from stakeholders and the community to ensure all interests are represented. There is also a regional committee that considers environmental restoration and repair, land use impacts on water quality and water storage, distribution and efficiency options.