Stockwater race network

A typical stockwater race

Council has provided stockwater in the Ashburton District for over 120 years.  Some races are even older but they were originally managed by the large farms of the day.  Water is taken from rivers, springs, the Rangitata Diversion Race and irrigation schemes.

Fast forward to 2019:

  • The stockwater race network is 2,100 km long
  • There are 447 km of main races
  • There are 1,657 km of local races
  • Water is sourced from 56 locations
    • 26 are consented through Environment Canterbury
    • 30 are accessed through agreements with various irrigation schemes

Note: Main races carry most of the water from the intakes. They can often be very deep and wide. Water is then distributed to people's properties through smaller local races.

Council is responsible for the maintenance of main races.  The property owner, or the person occupying the property, is responsible for the maintenance of local races.


The water for the stockwater race network is mainly sourced from:

  • the Rangitata River
  • the Ashburton River and its contributing streams
  • the Rakaia River
  • springs and drains
  • the Rangitata Diversion Race
  • irrigation schemes

River intakes are large engineered structures. A channel is constructed that diverts some water to the intake structure.  From here it then enters the stockwater race network.

Day to day management

The routine management of the stockwater race network is carried out by our water rangers.  The rangers are responsible for:

  • checking water flows
  • organising maintenance on the main races
  • making sure people comply with the water race byl​aw​

I've got no water – what does this mean?

If you have no water to your property, there are a few potential causes for this:

  • There could be a blocked race, junction or culvert further upstream.
  • The river diversion channel to the intake has been washed out during a flood.  Depending on the river flood levels, we may not be able to get a digger into the river to reform the channels for several days.

If you have a problem with a stockwater race, please first make sure there are no issues with the races on your property.  If there's still an issue, you can contact Council 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on (03) 307 7700.

There are a number of factors that impact on the stockwater race network that we cannot control; we do not guarantee a constant or uninterrupted supply of water to any property.​

If you need to have stockwater available all the time, we recommend that you have a back-up system and on-property water storage.