Competing demands from domestic, industrial, agricultural, energy generation and other users is placing pressure on water resources in the Waikato, Environment Waikato says.
It is sending out an issues and options paper this week to help it sustainably manage water allocation in the Region. Project Manager David Speirs said the Council is required to manage who takes water and how much is taken from surface water and groundwater, and it needs to ensure enough water is left in rivers and groundwater aquifers for other uses.
The Council is already concerned about several areas where water is either fully allocated for use or where allocation pressures are rising, including the Coromandel, Franklin, particularly Pukekohe, Waihou, Reporoa and some parts of the Hamilton basin.
“Over-allocating water can affect stream life, place community supplies at risk and threaten recreational and cultural values,” he said.
The discussion paper, which is being sent to current consent holders, anyone who has applied for a water use consent, previous submitters on water allocation issues and iwi groups, is designed to achieve a clearer process and greater certainty for water allocation. Refining existing policies would need a variation or change to the Waikato Regional Plan, best practice guidelines and catchment-specific frameworks. The discussion paper outlines some of the issues and options to consider for water allocation in the Waikato.
Mr Speirs said a draft had already been seen by several interest groups and their feedback had led to some changes in the document. The main issues outlined in the paper were that there was an incomplete picture of how much water was already being taken by users who do not require consents, competing demands for the use of the water, inefficient use which reduced the amount available and a projected long-term increase in groundwater use.
If not managed well, there was the risk of uncertainty for long-term water use, reduced availability for a wide range of uses, undesirable effects on waterways and the life in them and saltwater intrusion into groundwater.
“Water is a critical economic and social issue in the Waikato and is increasingly becoming a national issue as we have seen in Canterbury. Environment Waikato wants to be well prepared before these pressures increase.”
Among the issues to be considered were prioritising different water uses, restrictions during low flows, defining efficient use, avoiding effects on surface water, developing early warning systems for aquifers.
Environment Waikato Chairman Jenni Vernon said water was something New Zealanders had always taken for granted as being plentiful and of high quality.
“The time has now come when that situation is no longer true, and we now have to address as a community how best to maintain long-term sustainability of this precious resource.”
Feedback on the issues and options paper is needed by January 20 and booklets can be obtained by calling Environment Waikato's Freephone 0800 800 401 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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