Water levels drop, but most irrigators escape bans

By Nicki Harper

4 comments
Low flow irrigation bans have been placed on users with high water takes, but despite the lack of rain low level users are still able to irrigate at this stage.
Low flow irrigation bans have been placed on users with high water takes, but despite the lack of rain low level users are still able to irrigate at this stage.

Although water levels are dropping in rivers and streams across the region, and groundwater levels in the Heretaunga and Ruataniwha aquifers are well below normal, total irrigation bans are not on the horizon yet.

Last week, the Hawke's Bay Regional Council released its State of the Environment report for December that showed a high number of record monthly lows in the aquifers, and reported that low flow bans for irrigation have been enforced on higher take limits on most rivers.

Council compliance officer environmental Ian Lilburn said that despite the low flows, most irrigators were on the lowest ban level, which meant they could continue taking water for now.

For example on the Ngaruroro River at Fernhill, bans were in place for takes of 22,000 litres per second, 15,000l/s, and 5,000l/s, but were still allowed for the lower level of 2400l/s.

"The majority of irrigators have a ban level of 2400l/s, and we let them know through a daily automated message whether the river has gone below the ban level.

"They receive that in the morning, and if a ban is placed they have to cease taking water at 5pm that evening."

In terms of groundwater levels, Mr Lilburn said their classification as well below normal was based on historical summer averages measured from the bigger rivers in the region.

Although the Tukituki, Waipawa and Ngaruroro rivers looked very low at the moment, Mr Lilburn said they were holding up reasonably well, but the smaller rivers and streams were getting a bit stressed due to their smaller catchment areas.

"It's getting to be a bit of a concern but we are a little way off total bans. At this stage it's entirely in the lap of the gods."

Meanwhile, water restrictions are in place or conservation measures are being recommended across the region.

In Central Hawke's Bay, as of December 20, hosing restrictions had been enforced for Waipukurau, Waipawa, Otane, Takapau, Porangahau and Te Paerahi.

In these areas consumers were asked to only use hand hoses on alternate days for watering gardens and lawns, advised to water either in the early morning or evening.

As of today a full water ban was in force at Kairakau, with water use restricted to domestic purposes only. It was prohibited to wash properties, cars or boats, water gardens or lawns, or fill tanks and pools.

In Napier, the council put the call out last week for people to start conserving water in the wake of the hot temperatures, and pumps struggling to keep up with re-filling the reservoirs.

In the Hastings district a level 3 water restriction remains in place this week for Hastings, Flaxmere, Bridge Pa and Havelock North.

This meant a total ban on sprinklers but residents could use hand-held hoses to water their gardens every second day, between 6am and 8am, and 7pm and 9pm.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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