Roughly 164,000 people live in urban parts of Otago. The main hubs of our region are: Oamaru, Alexandra, Balclutha, Queenstown, Wanaka, Dunedin, Milton, Clyde and Cromwell. There are benefits to having more than 70% of our population in densely-connected areas, but it also presents a number of environmental challenges. Improvements can only be made with the combined effort of the thousands of residents in these areas.

Our Urban Water Quality Strategy sets out what the Otago community wants from the waterbodies we love and how we can work together to achieve this. It outlines how we can approach and address issues that threaten to degrade our urban water quality. The strategy is consistent with the approach used in Otago’s rural areas and acknowledges that the management of stormwater and wastewater play a significant role in having good or excellent water quality in Otago. Three key goals will help us achieve our urban water quality vision:

  1. Pride in our water quality
  2. Looking after our water
  3. Water quality for community well-being

The strategy sets out an integrated, coordinated and cost-effective approach to managing Otago’s urban water quality. It indicates how collaboration between local government, communities and individuals can play a part in water quality, particularly in urban areas. Click here to read the full strategy.

Most stormwater isn’t treated before it drains into our local waterways, which is why you should only drain rain.

In the urban environments we have created, rainwater runs into gutters and is collected in stormwater pipes that feed directly into the nearest waterway. Anything that goes into the drains can end up polluting our environment and poisoning fish, animals and plants. This pollution can also spoil waterways for our own use.

Find out more about why you should only drain rain, and how you can achieve this at home and work.

National targets were set in 2017 to reflect people’s desire for our rivers and lakes to be swimmable. As a nation, we’re working toward 80% of specified rivers and lakes to be swimmable by 2030 and 90% by 2040.

In Otago, 82% of our rivers and lakes are swimmable (as defined by the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management, or NPS-FM). That said, we’re not going let that success get in the way of making more progress! We’ve set our own regional targets and are working toward 90% of rivers and 98% of lakes being swimmable by 2030, and 95% of rivers and 100% of lakes swimmable by 2040.

Every summer from 1 December until 31 March, ORC monitors popular swimming spots around Otago every week to check that the water quality is safe enough for swimming.

Visit LAWA – Can I swim here? to find information on your favourite swimming spot.

Here are some tips for safe swimming:

  • Avoid swimming for at least 2-3 days after heavy or prolonged rain, even for sites that have good water quality.
  • If you can’t see your toes in calf-deep water, it is best to wait until the water clears before taking a dip.

ORC key contacts

ORC Pollution Hotline

If you observe pollution to water, air or land anywhere in Otago, please call the Pollution Hotline - it's 24/7.

Phone: 0800 800 033