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Fresh Water Bodies

Freshwater Image credit: Chris Williams

Fresh Water Bodies

How does ‘Fresh Water’ fit into the RPS?

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Fresh water is essential to our social, cultural and economic wellbeing now and in the future, and is consistently the number one environmental concern for people in the Waikato region. However, fresh water quality and ecosystem health varies across the region, and environmental indicators show that we are not achieving net improvement in these areas.

Land use affects water quality and ecosystem health, which is best in less developed, elevated parts of the region. In more developed lowland areas of the region, ecosystem health can be poor and streams often fail to meet quality guidelines. Increasing demand for fresh water for irrigation and municipal users, future population growth in the region and adjacent regions, and the fact that many of our rivers and streams are already fully allocated places tremendous pressure on fresh water bodies.

The RPS seeks to maintain and enhance the values of fresh water bodies in the region, manage the allocation and use of fresh water, and manage lakes, riparian areas and wetlands to promote water quality, biodiversity, cultural values and public access. In doing this, the RPS recognises the Vision and Strategy as the primary direction setting document for the Waikato River.

The management of fresh water bodies involves many sectors of the community. As part of the RPS, Waikato Regional Council is engaging with key sectors in the community and those likely to be most affected by changes in the management of the resource. The RPS recognises the special relationship that tāngata whenua have with water resources and identifies ways in which the council intends to involve tāngata whenua in managing the resource, such as developing monitoring programmes, including for mātauranga Māori, to chart improvements in the identified values of fresh water bodies.

Key messages

Fresh water quality values: The RPS recognises the inter-connected nature of ground and surface water and land use when looking at improving fresh water quality and ecosystem health. Key to making improvements will be identifying the values of water bodies, protecting outstanding fresh water bodies and significant values of wetlands and managing point/non-point source discharges. The RPS will be addressed through projects such as ‘Healthy Rivers’ and Regional Plan changes which are both already underway.

Vision and Strategy for the Waikato River: The RPS recognises Te Ture Whaimana o Te Awa o Waikato – the Vision and Strategy for the Waikato River – as the primary direction setting document for the Waikato River. The RPS will develop an integrated, holistic and co-ordinated approach to implementation including through regional and district plans, joint management agreements, and education and advocacy.

Water Allocation: In general, the region has plenty of rainfall and it is well distributed throughout the year, however there is continued increase in the demand for fresh water and many of our rivers and streams are already fully allocated. The RPS includes allocation policies to enable water use within allocation limits, but recognises that water should not be taken or used to the extent that it compromises the Māori or life supporting capacity of fresh water. The RPS also includes a policy framework to enable the establishment of a favourable status for fresh water takes for domestic and municipal supply, animals and existing takes. Over-allocation is required to be phased out by no later than 31 December 2030.

Efficient use of fresh water:The RPS aims to ensure that allocated water is used efficiently. This will largely be achieved through regional plans ensuring allocated volumes of water are justifiable, promoting shared use of water and providing for water harvesting/storage. Waikato Regional Council will also promote water conservation practices and demand management measures where appropriate, such as water saving devices, water metering, water recycling, water efficient technology and leak detection, and loss monitoring technologies.

Catchment based intervention: The RPS promotes a catchment based approach to water quality interventions. Waikato Regional Council will identify catchments requiring intervention. In terms of the Waikato River catchment, the Vision and Strategy for the Waikato River will be followed. The Regional Council will then work with landowners and industry groups to develop options to meet desired outcomes in identified catchments. The Waikato Regional Plan also adopts a catchment-based approach to ensure the integrated management of water resources.

Information gathering: As outlined in the RPS, Waikato Regional Council will continue to undertake research to assist in decision making around fresh water quality, aquatic life and ecosystems, and to monitor progress against identified values.

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Key contacts

Bruce McAuliffe, Team Leader for Water (Policy) in Science and Strategy.

Alan Campbell, Land Management Advisory Services Team Leader for Integrated Catchment Management. (Land Management and Advisory Services).

Bevan Jenkins, Team Leader for Water (Science) in Science and Strategy,

Quote

“Fresh water is one of our most valuable natural assets. The region’s fresh water resources are nearing allocable limits and quality is being affected by runoff from land, other discharges and a changing climate. The Fresh Water Chapter of the RPS sets the direction for managing freshwater. It seeks to maintain and enhance the mauri of identified values of fresh water and manage the allocation and use of water.

The overall approach to achieving these objectives is to identify fresh water body values, establish objectives, limits and targets for fresh water bodies and to identify and protect outstanding fresh water bodies and significant values of wetlands. A catchment or sub-catchment based approach will be used to manage fresh water bodies, recognising the Vision and Strategy as the primary direction setting document for the Waikato River. Managing the increasing demand and competition for water, and ensuring water is allocated and used efficiently is absolutely essential.” Bruce McAuliffe, Team Leader for Water (Policy) in Science and Strategy.