The low flows of the Manuherikia River would "surprise" many Central Otago residents, Otago Fish and Game Council officer Nigel Pacey said following a multi-stakeholder inspection of the river.
Fish and Game staff, along with Otago Regional Council (ORC) representatives, Manuherikia river users, Central Otago Environmental Society members and other interested community members, recently walked parts of the Manuherikia River to assess the river's flow, habitat and "general appearance" at low levels, Mr Pacey said.
He said he was surprised by what he saw in photos taken by staff attending the walk.
"They went to some harder-to-reach places and the impact of the water takes was much more evident than we had thought.
Most people in Central Otago know rivers around the area will be lower in the summer, but if the locals came down and had a look, I'm sure they would be surprised too."
The river's low flows had been a "common occurrence in recent years" and the last few years had been "particularly difficult, with record-setting extremes now commonplace".
He said a significant portion of the river was used for irrigation and noted the ORC was "currently working out how to address minimum flows and water allocation in the river".
It was important Otago residents engaged in those ORC processes, Mr Pacey said.
ORC acting director policy, planning and resource management Andrew Newman said in response to the Fish and Game statement: "As we move towards building an environmental management framework for the Manuherikia River and its catchment as a whole which has durability for the decades ahead, having the whole community involved in design solutions will be vital to ensure that we collectively get it right".