The Otago Regional Council (ORC) is issuing a Water Shortage Direction that will see a regime for the rationing and rostering of water take effect on three farms in the Paerau to Waipiata section of the Taieri River from 8am tomorrow (Friday 23 January).
ORC chief executive Peter Bodeker said it was clear following detailed flow gauging and analysis of the water in the Taieri, and co-operation from irrigators rostering water takes, that with careful rationing, a small amount of water would be available over the coming days for farmers in those sections of the river still retaining the minimum flow.
The Water Shortage Direction aims to ensure the minimum flows at Waipiata and Tiroiti are sustained and that any water available after the river ecology is preserved will be carefully managed, Mr Bodeker said.
An ORC staff group is keeping an hourly watch on flows. Getting this regular monitoring data meant the Water Shortage Direction could be amended as needed to maintain optimum river flows, or release water once the flows return to sustainable levels.
“We are committed to maintaining the minimum flows set for Waipiata and Tiroiti, and managing any available water through rationing and rostering among the few farms in the area entitled to take water under deemed permits or RMA consents. Extra ORC compliance staff will be in the field to ensure everyone complies with the Direction,” Mr Bodeker said.
The Water Shortage Direction prescribes how much and how often water will be rostered.
If the flow at Tiroiti falls below 1100 l/sec, all consent holders with water takes between Tiroiti and Waipiata will be expected to stop doing so.
“We appreciate the co-operation we’ve had so far from many farmers in difficult circumstances,” Mr Bodeker said.
“This includes farmers who have shown a great flexibility and capacity to ration water, the voluntary reductions made by Kyeburn irrigators which have released water to maintain flows at Tiroiti, and the work of the Maniototo Irrigation Company to release 1000 l/sec to assist flows at Waipiata,” he said.
All water takes from the Taieri below Tiroiti that have a measureable effect on river flows have ceased thanks to voluntary restrictions from farmers in this area, who have agreed to stop taking water until reasonable flows return.
Despite this, conditions are so dry that the river at Sutton is not expected to regain minimum flows until rain falls.
“We are at the stage where we are left with no choice other than to issue this Direction, and possibly others in the coming weeks, to secure the long-term viability of the river for all users should the need arise”, Mr Bodeker said.
Water shortage directions are issued under the Resource Management Act and allow regional councils to restrict, suspend, or apportion water at times of serious shortage. A direction can be applied for up to 14 days and can be amended, revoked, or renewed as circumstances determine.
ORC has intensified its flow monitoring work by increasing the number of river gauging devices operating to measure river flows. Council hydrologists, fishery, and water quality scientists have been surveying affected catchments to measure water flows and the effects of the drought on native fish, trout, and water quality.
With most rivers in the region running low so early in the year and no substantial rain in sight, all farmers should be implementing plans to deal with the longer term effects of water shortage on their property, Mr Bodeker said.
Up-to-date information is available from the ORC website at: http://water.orc.govt.nz or from the water info line on 0800 426 463.
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Ph 0274 998 328