Water rationing on Waimea Plains delayed

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Tasman District’s Dry Weather Taskforce met on Tuesday and decided to hold off on introducing water rationing for now but will review its decision next week.

Without rain it is likely that restrictions may have to be imposed on some catchments depending on river flow and aquifer levels in a fortnight’s time.

It was the earliest the Taskforce  has ever been called together, to assess the district’s water levels and determine whether rationing is needed. Overall the river flows and aquifer levels are declining and it’s drier in the eastern catchments of the district.

Also there has not been much rain since the onset of spring in September. Continuing lack of rain, drying winds, and increasing water demand with the irrigation season starting will cause further declines in river flows and aquifer levels.

Water usage data already shows water use has started about three weeks earlier than previous seasons.

Council environment and planning manager Dennis Bush-King says the Moutere, Waimea, Wai-iti and Motupiko catchments are looking very dry.

“If it doesn’t rain in the next few weeks it is highly likely we will be looking at introducing restrictions the week after next. The taskforce will be meeting regularly to keep a close eye on our aquifer and river levels.”

Given the current status of changing its Waimea water management rules, with submissions closing on October 19, the council has opted to use the existing rationing triggers which has meant a decision will be made next week as to when to commence rationing.

Dennis says the Waimea River is likely to get down to around 2.750 cumecs next week which is the new Stage 1 (20 percent reduction) trigger under the new rules.

“Rainfall and soil moisture levels are both observably well below where conditions were at this same time last year.”

The strong El Nino weather pattern affecting the district at the moment is expected to create drier, windier conditions than usual this summer.

Dennis says that people can help already by using water wisely and taking steps to manage the land for very dry conditions.