The Ashburton water zone is bordered by two large braided rivers  the Rakaia and Rangitata — and divided by the Hakatere (Ashburton) and Hekeao (Hinds) rivers. It has been extensively modified over the years to create one of the most productive agricultural regions in New Zealand. Three rūnanga consider the Ashburton zone part of their takiwā – Arowhenua, Taumutu and Ngāi Tūāhuriri. The rivers, lakes and the wetlands that once covered large areas of the zone have always been an important place and food basket for Ngāi Tahu.

The Ashburton Water Zone Committee develops local actions and tactics to deliver on the Canterbury Water Management Strategy. The committee meets most months, and meetings are open to the public.