League table of the suitability of New Zealand rivers for contact recreation

This league table ranks the 77 sites in the National Rivers Water Quality Network (NRWQN) from most (1) to least (77) suitable for contact recreation, e.g. swimming.

The ranking is based on visual clarity and faecal pollution (as indicated by E. coli bacteria). The lower of the two 'suitability' values for each river indicates whether faecal pollution or visual clarity is the greater problem and determines the overall rating. The entries are colour coded as follows:

eminently suitable suitable marginally suitable unsuitable totally unsuitable

To get the full picture it's important to read the accompanying technical report:

Suitability of NZ rivers for contact recreation: a pilot application of a water quality index to the National Rivers Water Quality Network (NRWQN) (PDF 1.7 MB)

This contains details of how the index was developed and how it was applied to data from the NRWQN.

Read more in the Water & Atmosphere article 'How clean are our rivers?'

The League Table

Rank NRWQN Site code River name visibility (m) Suitability based on visibility E. coli Suitability based on E. coli Water quality index Limiting variable
1 NN2 Motueka at Gorge 11.49 98.0 (cfu/100 mL) 100.0 98.0 Clarity
2 RO6 Waikato at Reids Farm 7.51 93.3 1 100.0 93.3 Clarity
3 HV4 Ngaruroro at Kuripapango 6.65 91.7 2 100.0 91.7 Clarity
4 DN10 Monowai below Gates 6.53 91.5 1 100.0 91.5 Clarity
5 AX1 Clutha at Luggate Br. 5.70 89.2 2 100.0 89.2 Clarity
6 RO1 Tarawera at Lake outlet 5.35 87.9 1 100.0 87.9 Clarity
7 WN2 Hutt at Kaitoke 4.93 86.2 4 96.9 86.2 Clarity
8 WN5 Ruramahanga at SH2 4.35 83.2 13 83.3 83.2 Clarity
9 TK5 Hakatakamea above MH Br. 4.10 81.6 13 83.3 81.6 Clarity
10 NN1 Motueka at Woodstock 4.37 83.3 16 80.3 80.3 E. coli
11 GY3 Grey at Waipuna 3.62 78.0 11 85.9 78.0 Clarity
12 TK4 Waitaki at Kurow 3.44 76.4 1 100.0 76.4 Clarity
13 TU2 Tongariro at Turangi 3.14 73.5 16 80.3 73.5 Clarity
14 NN3 Wairau at Dip Flat 2.84 70.0 2 100.0 70.0 Clarity
15 HV6 Mohaka at Glenfalls 2.83 69.8 26 71.4 69.8 Clarity
16 AX4 Clutha at Millers Flat 2.73 68.6 11 86.2 68.6 Clarity
17 GY4 Haast at Roaring Billy 2.42 64.2 3 98.7 64.2 Clarity
18 TK3 Opuha at Skipton Br. 2.41 64.1 33 66.9 64.1 Clarity
19 HM6 Ohinemuri at Karangahake 2.59 66.8 43 62.0 62.0 E. coli
20 CH1 Hurunui at Mandamus 2.18 60.3 9 89.4 60.3 Clarity
21 NN4 Wairau at Tuamarina 2.12 59.3 6 93.1 59.3 Clarity
22 GY2 Grey at Dobson 2.12 59.2 37 64.8 59.2 Clarity
23 TK6 Waitaki at SH1 Br. 2.09 58.8 32 67.8 58.8 Clarity
24 DN7 Oreti at Lumsden 4.25 82.6 50 58.6 58.6 E. coli
25 AX2 Kawarau at Chards 2.06 58.2 3 98.7 58.2 Clarity
26 TK1 Opihi at Waipopo 4.04 81.2 52 57.9 57.9 E. coli
27 RO3 Rangitaiki at Murapara 2.01 57.2 20 76.2 57.2 Clarity
28 CH2 Hurunui at SH1 Br. 1.88 54.8 65 53.5 53.5 E. coli
29 DN6 Mataura at Parawa 2.29 62.2 66 53.0 53.0 E. coli
30 RO4 Whirinaki at Galatea 1.76 52.4 42 62.3 52.4 Clarity
31 HV2 Tukituki at Red Br. 1.68 50.7 34 66.5 50.7 Clarity
32 GY1 Buller at Te Kuha 1.68 50.6 20 76.2 50.6 Clarity
33 WN4 Ruamahanga at Wardells 1.87 54.6 75 50.3 50.3 E. coli
34 WH1 Waipapa at Forest Ranger 2.26 61.6 82 48.7 48.7 E. coli
35 NN5 Buller at Longford 1.57 48.3 23 73.8 48.3 Clarity
36 DN9 Waiau at Tuatapere 1.87 54.6 88 47.2 47.2 E. coli
37 HV1 Makaroro at Burnt Br. 1.50 46.6 12 84.4 46.6 Clarity
38 TK2 Opihi at Rockwood 2.18 60.3 91 46.5 46.5 E. coli
39 DN4 Clutha at Balclutha 1.46 45.5 42 62.4 45.5 Clarity
40 WN3 Ruamahanga at Waihenga 1.45 45.3 96 45.4 45.3 Clarity
41 WA5 Rangitikei at Mangaweka 1.41 44.4 82 48.7 44.4 Clarity
42 HV5 Mohaka at Raupunga 1.36 43.2 20 76.7 43.2 Clarity
43 WA2 Manganui at SH3 3.83 79.7 108 43.0 43.0 E. coli
44 DN8 Oreti at Riverton HW Br. 1.35 42.9 61 54.8 42.9 Clarity
45 TU1 Whanganui at Te Maire 1.31 41.8 91 46.6 41.8 Clarity
46 HV3 Ngaruroro at Chesterhope 1.30 41.7 29 69.8 41.7 Clarity
47 WN1 Hutt at Boulcott 2.75 68.8 121 40.7 40.7 E. coli
48 DN2 Sutton at SH87 2.31 62.6 129 39.5 39.5 E. coli
49 RO5 Rangitaiki at Te Teko 1.20 39.0 31 68.3 39.0 Clarity
50 HM3 Waikato at Hamilton Traffic Br. 1.19 38.6 56 56.6 38.6 Clarity
51 DN3 Taieri at Outram 1.14 37.4 44 61.2 37.4 Clarity
52 WA7 Manawatu at Weber Rd 1.10 36.2 155 35.9 35.9 E. coli
53 GS3 Motu at Waitangirua 1.69 50.9 158 35.5 35.5 E. coli
54 WA3 Waingongoro at SH45 1.36 43.3 161 35.2 35.2 E. coli
55 WH2 Waitangi at Wakelins 1.46 45.5 167 34.4 34.4 E. coli
56 WA9 Manawatu at Opiki Br. 0.99 33.0 91 46.5 33.0 Clarity
57 WA8 Manawatu at Teachers Coll. 0.97 32.4 141 37.7 32.4 Clarity
58 WA4 Whanganui at Paetawa 0.96 32.2 105 43.7 32.2 Clarity
59 DN1 Taieri at Tiroiti 0.96 32.0 99 44.9 32.0 Clarity
60 WA6 Rangitikei at Kakariki 0.86 29.0 124 40.3 29.0 Clarity
61 GS2 Waikohu at No. 1 Br. 1.70 51.0 225 28.9 28.9 E. coli
62 GS4 Motu at Houpoto 0.85 28.7 21 75.8 28.7 Clarity
63 RO2 Tarawera at Awakaponga 0.81 27.2 86 47.6 27.2 Clarity
64 HM4 Waikato at Rangiriri 0.79 26.8 123 40.4 26.8 Clarity
65 HM1 Waipa at Otewa 1.49 46.4 276 25.3 25.3 E. coli
66 HM5 Waihou at Te Aroha 0.69 23.2 238 27.8 23.2 Clarity
67 AK2 Rangitopuni at Walkers 0.68 22.9 236 28.0 22.9 Clarity
68 AK1 Hoteo at Gubbs 0.66 22.3 126 40.0 22.3 Clarity
69 WH4 Wairu at Purua 0.65 22.1 99 44.9 22.1 Clarity
70 WH3 Mangakahia at Titoki Br. 0.65 22.0 249 27.1 22.0 Clarity
71 AX3 Shotover at Bowens Peak 0.63 21.1 2 100.0 21.1 Clarity
72 CH3 Waimakariri at Gorge 0.60 20.2 67 52.8 20.2 Clarity
73 WA1 Waitara at Bertrand Rd 0.59 19.7 344 21.6 19.7 Clarity
74 HM2 Waipa at Whatawhata 0.50 16.5 273 25.5 16.5 Clarity
75 DN5 Mataura at Seaward Down 0.90 30.1 488 16.2 16.2 E. coli
76 CH4 Waimakariri above old HW Br. 0.29 8.4 36 65.2 8.4 Clarity
77 GS1 Waipoa at Kanakanaia 0.11 0.7 126 40.0 0.7 Clarity