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River levels and rainfall

Rainbow at Fairview Downs, Hamilton.
Photo: David Hamilton

On this page: why we monitor rivers and rainfall, weather and tide links

Rainfall and river levels

Waikato Regional Council’s automated recorder sites constantly check on river levels and rainfall around the region. The information is sent electronically to our Hamilton office, and the information on this website is updated every 3 hours. Information is stated in NZ standard time (no allowance is made for daylight saving). In times of flood this information may get updated more frequently.

  • Use our maps to see graphs that show  river levels and flow and rainfall readings in your area for the last 7 days. All data is provisional. Contact Waikato Regional Council if you require more precise information.
  • Check out the latest river levels and rainfall readings taken at our monitoring sites.
  • Use our 0832 InfoLines service to get the latest readings by telephone at each recording site including: river level, rainfall, barometric pressure, wind speed, wind direction, air temperature and river flow.

Why we monitor rivers and rainfall

Flood management

Waikato Regional Council has responsibilities for managing flood risk in the Waikato region.

We keep track of river levels to see how quickly rivers are rising during storms,and we have flood warning systems in place to help us manage floods to protect people and their property.

We also need to know how much rain is falling at sites around the region, so we can:

  • predict river levels - for example, will they continue to get higher or will they start to fall?
  • know how wet the ground is, allowing us to estimate how much more rain the land can soak up, or if it will go straight into rivers.

It can take a long time for rain falling in the headwaters of a catchment to reach the lower stretches of a river. This means that people living close to rivers may not know that river levels are going to rise because they have had little rain on their property.

For example, it can take days for water in the Waikato River to travel from the headwaters to Port Waikato. But if land in the catchment is already very wet, then travel times are shortened. On smaller rivers such as the Ohinemuri, travel times can be much shorter, perhaps only hours. Keeping an eye on rainfall upstream helps people manage their flood risk.

Low flows

Photograph of river monitoring

In some areas the opposite of flooding causes problems. River levels can fall during long dry periods. Our automated recorder sites alert us when there are low flows, and we may start on-site monitoring of streams in sensitive areas. We need to monitor the amount of water being taken to ensure there is enough water for:

  • drinking water, irrigation and waste treatment
  • other uses, such as recreation
  • fish, plants and other animals.

Water can be used for domestic needs or for stock in small amounts as long as there is little effect on water flows. In most other cases, a resource consent is necessary to take water.

Recreation

People use many rivers in the Waikato region for recreation. Rafters, trout fishers or kayakers are interested in river levels to plan their activities.

Weather and tide links

MetService - special weather bulletins

NZCity - weather

Land Information New Zealand – tidal predictions

More information on this website

Find out more about river flooding in the Waikato region.

Read about the Smart Water Use project, a region-wide focus on water conservation, and find out what you can do to conserve our region's precious water resources.

Southern Oscillation Index (SOI)

Find out about how the Southern Oscillation Index impacts on the river levels and rainfall in the Waikato region

Have you found this topic useful? We’d like to hear from you. Contact us.