2005 – Water for the Waimea Basin, New Zealand

Joseph Thomas, Peter Thomson, John Grimston, Sally Marx

The Waimea Basin is located in the South Island of New Zealand. The area has an acute water shortage with recent studies showing the water resources to be over-allocated by 22% for a 1 in 10 year drought security. The current area irrigated is about 3,700 ha and there is additional productive land that could potentially be irrigated if more water were available. Water users have suffered severe restrictions on their water use over recent years through drought management measures imposed to meet critical environmental flow requirements and coastal salinity buffering. This has caused significant production cutbacks for irrigated crops resulting in regional economic loss, affected major urban water supplies resulting in water supply cut-backs affecting domestic and industrial users and also affecting the important environmental values of the Wairoa/Waimea Rivers and the coastal springs that are highly valued by the community and local iwi (Maori).

The principal objective of this project is to carry out a study into the feasibility of water storage in the upper parts of the catchment for enhancing water availability for both consumptive and environmental/community/ aesthetic benefits downstream. The outcome from this feasibility study will provide the community with the necessary information to make an informed decision on proceeding with potential storage options. The Waimea Water Augmentation Committee is overseeing this feasibility study. The study will be completed byJune 2007.

The Waimea Plains area is also quite unique as to the interest and values relating to the water resource as it has multi stakeholder interest. Being close to urban centres, the water resource not only caters for irrigation use but also public water supplies as well as recreational, community interest and cultural values.

This paper sets out the project’s aim, general methodology being followed, and summarises the progress to June 2005.

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