ECan water use limits taken seriously

As we enter another “big dry”, efficient management of water in both urban and rural areas continues to be a top priority for HDC as well as farmers, landowners and Environment Canterbury.
Commissioner David Caygill said “significant progress” had been made over the last two years. “Over 4,800 water takes are now measured, providing data to inform both on-farm water usage and farm business profitability, as well as supporting environmental outcomes through improving water use efficiency, minimising nutrient loss and understanding water availability,” Mr Caygill said.
“Environment Canterbury takes the efficient use of water seriously, particularly in these times of extremely dry weather. We have an active monitoring programme and each year a prioritised subset of water takes is monitored for compliance with annual volume limits. This monitoring is in addition to monitoring those who take from rivers and are subject to minimum flow conditions – they must turn off when river flows fall below a set level.”
1039 water takes were monitored for compliance with annual volume limits during the 2014-2015 season. Of these, 59 consents were found to be non-compliant and enforcement action is currently being taken.

“There were some instances where data was not submitted in line with the legal requirements and these are being followed up to determine how and why this has happened and to what extent enforcement measures are required,” Mr Caygill said.
Farmers have been experiencing low groundwater levels associated with the drought over the last two seasons. “This has caused - and is continuing to cause - significant anxiety for affected consent holders, particularly those with adaptive management conditions that depend on the aquifers recharging over winter,” Mr Caygill said.
“Drought conditions are expected to continue and users will keep facing restrictions. People can’t use what isn’t available. It is still very important that Environment Canterbury fulfils its statutory responsibilities and sustainably manages these water resources.

“Efficient use of water is vital,” David Caygill concluded. “Farmers should be planning for drought conditions over the coming season and potentially beyond.

“They need to know Environment Canterbury will be enforcing restrictions on water permits, including adaptive management restrictions, minimum flows and annual volumes. Most lowland and hill-fed rivers will be on restriction this season, some for many months.”

Further information on the 2014-15 irrigation season.