Waitaki River pictured from the International Space Station
|- left||Ahuriri, Otematata, Maerewhenua|
|Cities||Otematata, Kurow, Duntroon, Glenavy|
|Landmarks||Benmore Dam, Aviemore Dam|
|- location||Lake Benmore, New Zealand|
|Source confluence||Ohau River and Tekapo Rivers|
|- elevation||0 m (0 ft)|
|Length||209 km (130 mi)|
|- average||356 m3/s (12,572 cu ft/s)|
|Wikimedia Commons: Waitaki River|
The Waitaki River is a large river in the South Island of New Zealand, some 110 km long. It is the major river of the Mackenzie Basin. It is a braided river which flows through Lake Benmore, Lake Aviemore and Lake Waitaki. These are ultimately fed by three large glacial lakes, Pukaki, Tekapo, and Ohau. Lake Benmore and Lake Aviemore are contained by hydroelectric dams, Benmore Dam and Aviemore Dam.
The Waitaki has several tributaries, notably the Ahuriri River and the Hakataramea River. It passes Kurow and Glenavy before entering the Pacific Ocean between Timaru and Oamaru on the east coast of the South Island.
The river’s flow is normally low in winter, with flows increasing in spring when the snow cloaking the Southern Alps begins to melt, with flows throughout the summer being rainfall dependent and then declining in the autumn as the colder weather begins to freeze the smaller streams and streams which feed the catchment. The median flow of the Waitaki River at Kurow is 356 cubic metres per second.
The middle of the river bed forms a political boundary between the Canterbury and Otago regions. As such, the term "South of the Waitaki" is often used to refer to the Otago and Southland regions as one common area (the two regions share historical and ethnic relationships which make them distinct from the regions to the north of them).
Irrigation and electricity generation
In 2001 a proposal for a series of canals and dams was made by Meridian Energy for irrigation and electricity generation on the river. This scheme, known as Project Aqua, planned to divert up to 77% of the lower river's flow to create a hydroelectric scheme, but these plans were dropped in March 2004. Lack of commercial viability was given as the major reason for the scheme's shelving, although strenuous public protest may also have been a major contributing factor. A more modest successor scheme, the North Bank tunnel looked likely to proceed, with water rights being granted in 2009, but land access negotiations were suspended in January 2013 due to flat demand for electricity forecast for the next five years.
- Waitaki River, An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock, originally published in 1966. Te Ara - The Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 26-Sep-2006.
- Waitaki Catchment Hydrological Information, Table 3.2 Waitaki Catchment - Flow Statistics at Flow Recording Sites, February 2005, Ref. ME582, Ministry for the Environment website, retrieved 22 November 2007.
- Braddell, Richard (14 April 2001). "Meridian overturns conventional wisdom on hydro costs". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 1 December 2011.
- Cogle, Fleur (26 September 2009). "Meridian wins water rights for hydro project". Timaru Herald. Retrieved 2009-09-26.
- Nordmeyer, Arnold (1981). Waitaki – The River and its Lakes, The Land and its People. Waitaki Lakes Committee. pp. 169 pages. ISBN 0-473-00080-6.