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Otago rivers below or nearing minimum flows

Media Release - 07 January 2015

Persistent dry weather conditions in Central and North Otago mean the Otago Regional Council (ORC) is encouraging irrigators to carefully manage what water is still available as rivers remain low.

ORC Chief Executive Peter Bodeker said dry weather has put several Otago river catchments at or below their minimum flow levels, which means irrigation must stop or be substantially reduced.

The Shag River has fallen below its minimum flow of 150 litres/second (l/sec) and water users should no longer be taking water. This morning the Shag River is at 85 l/sec at Craig Road. It is likely that some reaches of the Shag River below Dunback are dry.

The Kakanui River is also low and continues to drop. This morning the Mill Dam and McCones flow sites were recording flows of 470 l/sec and 352 l/sec respectively. The minimum flow for both these sites is 250 l/sec.

Water allocation from the Kakanui River is managed by the Kakanui Water Allocation Committee which has been advised of the situation in the catchment.

The Waianakarua River at Browns Pump is running at 184 l/sec and some water take consents must now cease operation.

The Taieri River at Sutton is below its minimum flow of 1,250 l/sec, and is currently running at 1180 l/sec. At Waipiata the Taieri River is below its minimum flow level of 1,000 l/s, and is running at 972 l/sec, and at Tiroiti the river is just above minimum flow of 1,100 l/sec. At Outram it is 2,560 l/sec, just above the minimum flow level of 2,500 l/sec.

Water abstraction from the Taieri River is dominated by deemed permits (mining privileges). Historically, deemed permits, which expire in 2021, have not been subject to minimum flow restrictions.

“Those irrigators, taking water under deemed permits should manage their water carefully and responsibly, being mindful of community needs and the vulnerable river ecology, given the extent of the low flows,” Mr Bodeker said.

“Where water takes are carried out by RMA consent holders they must adhere strictly to the consent conditions. Council staff will be in the field closely monitoring irrigation in all these catchments. Any illegal irrigation found could result in enforcement action.

“We are contacting the affected farmers in the Taieri, Shag, Waianakarua and Trotters Creek catchments and requesting they restrict their water takes,” Mr Bodeker said.

If flows continue to drop council may issue a water shortage direction that all water takes, including deemed permits, must be managed in order to maintain the minimum flow and provide for a river’s ecosystem, however, typically in such persistent dry conditions cessation of all water takes would not result in much of an increase in flows.

Significant rainfall is needed to return rivers to normal.

Mr Bodeker said council staff would keep farmers informed in advance of any further controls on water use so there would be no surprises.

Meetings to discuss water management options, should dry weather continue, will be held this week with Central Otago irrigation company leaders.

“Most Otago farmers were accustomed and experienced in dealing with water shortages and have already taken responsible steps to ration water and adjust their farm management to get through this dry spell,” he said.

The ORC maintains its water info line on 0800 426 463 and has up-to-date information on its website at: http://water.orc.govt.nz, there is no charge for using either of these services.

For more information please contact

Peter Bodeker
Ph 0274 998 328
ORC Chief Executive

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