Swimming hole on Canterbury's Selwyn River reaches record low and nearly stagnant

Coes Ford has virtually stopped flowing and is covered in algae.
JOSEPH JOHNSON/FAIRFAX NZ

Coes Ford has virtually stopped flowing and is covered in algae.

A dying Canterbury swimming hole has almost dried up after its flow plummeted to the lowest point in its recorded history.

Coes Ford on the Selwyn River, a once popular camping spot now too polluted for swimming, has hit rock bottom.

The river's flow has dropped by 90 per cent in two months, falling to 9 litres per second on February 6, according to Environment Canterbury (ECan) data.

Holidaymakers Simon Mills, 10, and his sister Lucy, 12, keep cool at Coes Ford. Picture taken December 28, 1993.
DON SCOTT/FAIRFAX NZ

Holidaymakers Simon Mills, 10, and his sister Lucy, 12, keep cool at Coes Ford. Picture taken December 28, 1993.

ECan confirmed it was the lowest flow recorded at the site since records began in 1987.

READ MORE
No longer swimmable: A community mourns its lost river
Road or river?
Over the line: Rivers being whittled away

It was less than half the previous record low of 20 litres per second, which was recorded in March 2006.

The flow has reached its lowest level in recorded history.
JOSEPH JOHNSON/FAIRFAX NZ

The flow has reached its lowest level in recorded history.

It has been a spectacular decline for Coes Ford, which was swimmable as recently as two years ago.

Locals have fond memories of the river, where water levels would at times rise to meet the ford crossing.

The water level this summer has rarely risen above ankle deep and flows in a thin trickle, the water fly-blown and covered in algae. 

Coes Ford running in July, 1991.
FAIRFAX NZ

Coes Ford running in July, 1991.

Further downstream, at Selwyn Huts, residents no longer go near the river because it is too polluted. It flows into Lake Ellesmere, believed to be the country's most polluted lake.

Ad Feedback

Data shows that on the first day of summer, the river's flow at Coes Ford was around 130 litres per second. It has fallen 93 per cent since then.

While there had been considerable rainfall in recent months, it was not enough to restore groundwater levels which had been unusually low three winters in a row, ECan chief scientist Tim Davie said.

The water is barely a trickle and covered in algae.
JOSEPH JOHNSON/FAIRFAX NZ

The water is barely a trickle and covered in algae.

Irrigators have been on full restriction around Coes Ford for several months.

The river's shocking state comes as authorities work towards making Coes Ford swimmable again.

Late last year, the Selwyn-Waihora Zone Committee introduced its Swimmable Selwyn @ Coes Ford initiative, which sought to restore the swimming hole to its former glory.

Committee chairman Allen Lim said the range of work required to achieve the initiative would be extensive, but would be one of the group's main focuses.

"No one thing is going to get the desired outcome," he said.

"Part of the solution will probably have to be augmenting the river and bringing in alpine water somewhere near the top."

The area was in a dry period at the moment and the committee was looking at if it was a sign of things to come, he said.

"If you look at long term cycles, we're in a dry period, but it could come back to a wet period again.

"What we're looking at at the moment is it part of climate change or just part of the natural cycle? Some of those things we don't know. Even science can't provide all the answers."

Comments have been closed. 

 - Stuff

Comments

Ad Feedback
special offers
Ad Feedback