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Waterways hit minimum flow levels

Waterways in some parts of the Waikato have now dropped to flows which trigger restrictions on water takes, and the threat of this happening in other parts of the region is increasing.

Waikato Regional Council monitoring shows the Piako River generally and some streams in north Waikato are now close to or below minimum flows where restrictions kick in to protect aquatic life, and to ensure enough water is in waterways for essential uses.

The Waihou River is now heading towards hitting its minimum flow in a week or two, while other parts of the region are also heading that way, said Dr Ed Brown from the council’s resource information team.

“If the dry weather continues we can expect most of the region’s waterways to be at or below minimum flows this summer,” said Dr Brown.

This information comes on top of news that soil moisture levels in the region are below normal for this time of year.

“We need a period of reasonably sustained rain to turn around the low flow situation in our waterways,” said Dr Brown.

He urged all those with water take consents – such as irrigators, municipal users and industry - to keep up to date with river flows and to not use more water than they are allowed during periods of low flow.

Information on river flows is available at www.waikatoregion.govt.nz/riversandrainfall. Anyone wanting advice on their consent conditions can call 0800 800 401.

Farmers taking unconsented water for shed wash and stock drinking, under permitted activity rules, should try to minimise water use where possible and ensure there are no leaks in their systems, said Dr Brown. Any farmers with consented water takes should adhere to the terms of their consents covering low flow periods.

“We appreciate the situation may place a strain on farmers, growers, industry and other water users but it is important that we leave enough water in river and streams to maintain the health of waterways and aquatic life, and to provide for essential uses such as domestic water supplies.”

Chairman Peter Buckley said the council would continue to keep a close watch on waterway levels, and the soil moisture situation, and share information with the likes of the Ministry of Primary Industries and the Rural Support Trust.

“We are ready to work with others to react appropriately if the dry spell starts creating more widespread problems for the region.”

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