Our annual winter shutdown marking the end of the 2023-2024 irrigation season took place at 8:00am on Tuesday 7th May 2024. Our maintenance team is in the process of winterization at present - at this stage de-winterizing will take place in late August, ready for the new irrigation season in September. If you have any questions or queries, please phone Operations on (03) 928 2960 or email

Central Plains Water Limited

Sustainable Water Growing Our World

About Us

The Central Plains Water Enhancement Scheme, which is owned and operated by Central Plains Water Limited (CPWL), is the largest irrigation scheme in the South Island with an estimated value of $446M.

The Scheme currently supplies irrigation to approximately 45,000 hectares and has the consented potential to deliver sustainable irrigation to 63,000 hectares of land between the Rakaia and Waimakariri Rivers.

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2023 Annual Review

From small everyday actions to major shifts, we’re all striving for a better future. Central Plains Water Limited (CPWL) is committed to meeting the challenge and providing exceptional environmental stewardship of our natural resources.

We present our Annual Report in two parts. The Annual Review is an integrated view of our social and environmental performance, and activities with our financial performance included in the Financial Report.

This year’s Annual Review document is longer and more detailed. We have deliberately done this to set a future benchmark against which we can measure our results. We have evolved our approach to reporting to show an integrated view of our economic, social, and environmental performance and activities. We have incorporated the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals into this report. Our approach focuses on driving positive change in eleven areas to create a better tomorrow for all.

Our Operation

Our Customers and People

We service 401 shareholder customers across the Central Plains Water Enhancement Scheme and deliver pressurised water at the farm gate to 45,000 hectares.

The Scheme has been developed by CPWL, a co-operative of 380 farmer shareholders and is managed and operated by 23 staff.

Our team manage all aspects of the business's 24/7 day to day operations of the Scheme including; water delivery, storage, repairs and maintenance, resource consents, nutrient management, health and safety and emergency response capabilities, business operations including finance, legal and communications.

Our Assets

We manage and operate $446M of scheme assets to ensure reliable and efficient water delivery to our customers. Our maintenance team monitor and maintain the scheme 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The Scheme has been built in stages and they are described as Stage 1, Stage 2 and Sheffield. The Scheme utilises run-of-river water from both the Rakaia and Waimakariri rivers supported by stored water from Lake Coleridge.

The Central Plains Water Scheme has been a significant construction project for the South Island.

The Scheme was constructed in three stages between 2014 and 2018 and is now fully operational. The Scheme has utilised state of the art materials, construction techniques and control systems, all designed to meet an 80 year life with an expectation that 100 years of service will be achieved.

Our Environment and Society

We work closely with our irrigators and local regulators to ensure all aspects of the scheme and its operation comply with our resource consents. We assist our customers with preparation and maintenance of farm environment plans and we audit these plans regularly.

The Scheme is delivering “game changing” benefits to the Canterbury Community by way of economic ($592M p.a increased production), social (circa 700 new jobs) and environmental (restoration of groundwater to the Te Waihora / Ellesmere) benefits.

"Sustainable Water Growing Our World"

Our Mission

Available Capacity

At this time, not all of the available water delivery shares have been sold. If you are wanting to access CPWL water for your farm, please contact us. The percentage of total available shares sold in each stage is provided below.

Stage 1 96%
Stage 2 87%
Sheffield Scheme100%

Planning to dig?

If you are planning to excavate within the scheme area please ensure you lodge a request with to avoid damaging our scheme assets.

Our scheme contains many hundreds of kilometres of buried pressurised water pipes ranging in diameter from 2.5 metres down to 150mm. We also have many electricity and communications services buried throughout the scheme area.

If you are planning to excavate and are unsure if it will impact our scheme then please contact our Maintenance team.

Scheme Benefits

Research undertaken by Agribusiness and Economics Research Unit at Lincoln University investigated the significant contribution to the economy of Christchurch city by the rural sector in Canterbury. Changes in rural sector infrastructure, particularly extensive irrigation development and associated land-use changes, have had significant flow-on effects on the city’s economy. The total impact, either directly or indirectly, has contributed to an additional more than 4,000 full-time jobs in the city that were associated with economic activity generated by farm expenditure from the Selwyn and Waimakariri Districts.

Central Plains Water Trust (CPWT) was established to improve the security and prosperity of Central Canterbury through water management schemes that enhance ecological and recreational values while providing the opportunity for agricultural and horticultural diversity. Through CPWL and the construction and operation of the Scheme, these objectives have been reached.