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Our freshwater environments

New Zealand is a relatively narrow country (450 kilometres at its widest point) dominated by mountains, in which many of our rivers and streams originate. In total, New Zealand has over 425,000 kilometres of rivers and streams, 249,776 hectares of wetlands, and more than 50,000 lakes, about 4,000 of which are larger than one hectare in area. New Zealand’s fresh water is also stored in reservoirs (artificial lakes, or natural lakes with raised water levels) ranging from small-farm dams to the 7,500-hectare Lake Benmore in Canterbury. A considerable amount of our fresh water is groundwater in aquifers. We do not cover glaciers and snow in Our fresh water 2017– we will do that in Our atmosphere and climate 2017, to be published in October 2017.

In this report, we discuss the freshwater environments of the North and South islands. We note that Stewart Island, the Chatham Islands, other outlying islands (eg Raoul and Campbell), the Ross Dependency, and Tokelau, are all part of, or associated with, New Zealand. But due to lack of data, or access to data from these outlying areas, we do not cover them in this report.