Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Waikato River is the longest river in New Zealand. Located in the northwestern North Island, it runs for 425 kilometres from the eastern slopes of Mount Ruapehu, joining the Tongariro River system and emptying into Lake Taupo, New Zealand's largest lake. It drains Taupo at the lake's northeastern edge, creates the Huka Falls, then flows northwest, forming the Waikato Plains. Finally, it empties into the Tasman Sea south of Auckland at Port Waikato. The river gives its name to the Waikato region which surrounds the Waikato Plains.
The Waikato River has spiritual meaning for the local Tainui Maori tribe who regard it as a source of their mana or pride. The New Zealand national marae of Turangawaewae is located close to its banks at Ngaruawahia. The name Waikato comes from Maori and translates as flowing water.
Uses of the river
The river has long been a critical communications and transport link for the communities along its banks. The cities of Taupo and Hamilton are located on or close to its banks, as are the towns of Mangakino, Cambridge, Ngaruawahia, and Huntly.
The water of the river has been harnessed for electricity generation. There are eight hydroelectric power stations and one thermal power station on the river. Details of the hydroelectric stations are given at Reservoirs and dams in New Zealand. Large artificial lakes connected with hydroelecticity generation are found on the river at Maraetai, Arapuni, and Karapiro. The thermal plant, Huntly Power Station (1,000MW), is cooled by river water and can burn both gas and coal.
Two major problems currently face the river. The river has pollution due to water runoff from intensive land use in its catchment area. Dairy farming is one of the causes of this pollution. There are also controversial plans to punp water north to Auckland to be purified and used for domestic water supply.
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