Canterbury’s environment is special, with braided rivers flowing over broad plains between great mountains and the ocean.
Canterbury is also one of the few places in New Zealand where a vast amount of water not only flows across the plains in big rivers, but underground as well. Early European settlers soon discovered that all they had to do was bore wells under the plains and up came plenty of water. It was free of germs, crystal clear and cold. It came up without having to be pumped, just like a spring. In fact it was from the same water that went to the springs which feed some of our rivers.
Where does this water come from? The biggest rivers Waitaki, Rangitata, Rakaia and Waimakariri are fed by rain and melting snow from the mountains in the west. Middle-sized rivers are fed mainly by rain in the foothills.
Some of this river water soaks down through the ground. So does heavy rain falling on the plains. The zones underground where this water collects are called aquifers.
Small rivers on the plains are spring-fed from these aquifers.