Land and Resources, Rivers and Lakes
Lake Manapouri, Lake Wanaka, Clutha River, extinct volcano, Tasman Sea
Lake Taupo is the largest lake in New Zealand. It covers an area of 606 sq km (234 sq mi) in the central volcanic plateau of the North Island. The lake occupies the crater of an extinct volcano and reaches a depth of 162 m (531 ft). Its outlet is the north-flowing Waikato River, the country’s longest river. The Waikato flows to the northwest for a distance of 425 km (264 mi) and empties into the Tasman Sea. It has been dammed in several places for hydroelectricity generation, and its drainage basin is one of the country’s most fertile agricultural areas.
The largest lake of the South Island is Te Anau, covering an area of 344 sq km (133 sq mi). Te Anau and many other South Island lakes are glacially carved troughs on the eastern flank of the Southern Alps. Several of these lakes are part of the upper Waitaki River hydroelectric system. Water from Lake Manapouri, south of Te Anau, is also harnessed for hydroelectricity.
Most of the rivers of the South Island originate in the pristine glacial lakes of the Southern Alps and flow generally southeastward to empty into the Pacific Ocean. The Clutha River, the largest river of the island at a length of 336 km (209 mi), originates at Lake Wanaka and is fed by several tributaries as it flows southward across Otago Province. The Clutha River discharges the largest volume of water of any river in New Zealand and has been dammed in a number of places for hydroelectricity generation. North of the Clutha, the Waitaki River crosses the Canterbury Plains in central South Island. Its huge catchment area is one of the most valuable hydroelectric power resources in the country. It and other rivers to the north formed the Canterbury Plains by redistributing vast quantities of gravel from the Southern Alps. They occupy wide gravel beds and are navigable only by jetboat, a flat-bottomed boat that skims the surface of shallow waters. The rivers provide a source of irrigation water for the crops and grasslands of the agricultural region.
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