In this section

The water races exist to supply drinking water to stock animals across Selwyn District.

The Water Race network in central Canterbury began operations over 120 years ago and was established to provide reliable water source for agriculture. Council manages approximately 1,700kms of water race network that runs across the district. Water Races are run under three different schemes.Water race in snow

Malvern [PDF, 769 KB]

Paparua [PDF, 2420 KB]

Ellesmere [PDF, 812 KB]

Water races have a secondary purpose of firefighting resources, irrigation and landscape/aesthetic.  All properties with access to a water race are rated for stock water regardless of whether the water is used.

Water Race Services

Council has contractors employed to manage the water races and to ensure there is supply across each scheme. Council contractor SICON does this work including river works at each intake, clearing grills and screens and setting flows across each scheme.

Council generally clean main water races when it is required and land owners are responsible for cleaning all other races (as outlined in Policy W103). Council contractors have legal rights to cross private property to clean a designated race. Property owners are responsible for maintaining all vegetation planted adjacent to water races.

To find out if your water race is your responsibility and to get advice on maintenance best practices please contact Council.

Poor Water Race SupplyDry Water Race

If you are experiencing a poor supply from your water race please report the issue to Council by phone or email Council’s Network Management Contractor SICON will investigate and where possible remedy the issue.

Council cannot guarantee supply to the races and sometimes it can take a long time for the problem to be resolved (e.g. due to lack of water in the river), Council’s policy W109 enables a rebate of water race rates to be made for the duration of the prolonged outage (provided it was reported to Council). Applications for water race rebates should be made in writing to

Water Race Cleaning

Council generally cleans main water races when it is required and land owners are responsible for cleaning all other races (as outlined in Policy W103).

If there is a water race on or adjacent to you property you should regularly inspect, repair, maintain and clean to ensure there is a continuous supply of water downstream. Cleaning should include removal of built up silt, aquatic weed and grasses and pest plants in the race. Race cleaning work should be careful not to damage races or banks.

Clean Water Race Dirty Water Race

Clean water races should be free flowing, clear of silt, vegetation and other obstructions that prevent water from flowing. Land owners should keep adjacent plants and vegetation trimmed back from the water race.

Please contact Council to find out whether your water race is cleaned by Council or to get further advise on maintaining your water race.

Water Race Culverts

Each property owner owns their entranceway culvert over the water race and are responsible for it’s maintenance and replacement, if needed. Approval from Council is required prior to any structure being placed in a water race.

Drawing - Water race entranceway culvert [PDF, 211 KB]
Application - New entranceway culvert [PDF, 2558 KB]

Water Race Closure

With the establishment of Central Plains Water Ltd If all rate payers on a section of water race agree to its closure, and application can be made to Council to close the race. Details of the closure process . No closure can be undertaken without Council approval.

Water Race Shut Downs

Occasionally water races are shut down for planned maintenance works. All shutdowns are managed by Council’s Network Management Contractor SICON. Any contractors or land owners wishing to shut down water supply to install culverts or other structures, should contact the Council to be directed to SICON.

Planned shut downs shall be undertaken in line with Councils Policy W117. Please note that planned shut downs greater than 24 hours will be publicly notified at the applicants cost. Council require 3 weeks notice for planned shut downs greater than 24 hours.

Some main races are not able to be shut at certain times of year. Over pumping should be allowed for.

Current planned water race shut downs

Water Race Planting

Council support the planting of water races to help to increase biodiversity, reduce weed growth and stabilise race banks. Council need to make sure that plant selection and placing are suitable.

Further details and a list of approved plants.

Water Race Management

Councils Management of water races is overseen by the Water Race Sub-Committee, The committee meet regularly throughout the year and members of public are welcome to present to the committee at the public forum section of the meeting.

Details of the committee.

The Council Water Race Management Plan sets out key water race network managing principles. The Plan gives a specific statement of intent for the network, details key objectives/outcomes, and outlines best practice guidelines to be followed in managing and operating the network.

To download a copy of the management plan, follow the links below.

Water Race Management Plan Part 1 [PDF, 8002 KB]
Water Race Management Plan Part 2 [PDF, 14522 KB]

Use of water races for any purpose other than stock water requires an application to Council. Council’s Water Race Policies and Bylaw outline how the races are used and managed. Copies of these documents can be found below:

Council Policy Manual [PDF, 1236 KB] (including Water Races Policies)
Water Race Bylaw 2008  [PDF, 105 KB]

Water Race Relocations

Land owners can apply to Council for permission to move a section of water race. To gain Council approval there must be no impact on other water race users. Relocations are required to be undertaken in line with policy W106. Applicants should contact Council to be directed to Council’s Network Management Contractor SICON for further advice and to make an application. No relocations can be undertaken without Council approval.

Drawing - Water race lining, New and Relocated Channels [PDF, 473 KB]
Application - Race relocation of new water race [PDF, 360 KB]


Selwyn District Council approval is required before any new structures are placed in a water race or changes made to an existing race (relocation, closure etc). In addition to making an application to Council, it is the applicant's responsibility to consult with Environment Canterbury prior to excavation works being undertaken in or adjacent to a water race to determine whether resource consent is required (earthworks adjacent to a surface water body).

Water Race Ponds

Water race ponds can be applied for, in line with the requirements of Policy W102. Applicants should contact Council to be directed to Council’s Network Management Contractor SICON for further advise and to make an application. A copy of the water race pond application form can be found here.

Drawing - Water race connection requirements for ponds [PDF, 95 KB]
Application - Construction of new ponds [PDF, 60 KB]

Irrigation Applications

Water race rate payers in all three schemes can apply to irrigate house gardens from the water race up to a maximum of 4,000 litres per day. Non-commercial irrigation for establishment of shelter-belts can be applied for, for a 2 year period.

Council hold an Environment Canterbury consent that allows water for commercial irrigation to be taken from the water race in the Paparua scheme. Irrigation water is allocated based on availability and a roster is reissued on 1 September each year. Amounts of available irrigation water are influenced by river levels which is reflected in the irrigation roster. Annual irrigation charges are calculated and applied to the litre per second allocation in the irrigation agreement. Further details on the types of irrigation available are outlined in policy W101 and sections 6.9 and 6.10 of the bylaw.

Application forms -

Any person wishing to apply for irrigation should contact Council to be directed to Council’s Network Management Contractor SICON.

Building Setback from a Water Race

To ensure that water races can continue to be maintained, Council’s standard building setback from the top of a water race bank is 10 metres, as outlined in the water race bylaw Section 8.21. Reduced Building Setback  [PDF, 121 KB]can be applied for using the form and submitting to Council.

Water Race Spraying

Council undertake spraying of vegetation emerging from some Council cleaned water races. Spraying of water race banks can cause them to slump and collapse. Council do not recommend land owners spray water race banks or directly into water.