Views are mixed about the $14.7 million water storage scheme for Central Hawke's Bay's Ruataniwha Aquifer.

The Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR) scheme was announced as part of the Hawke's Bay Provincial Growth Fund package on Monday.

It will be run by Hawke's Bay Regional Council, and will work by capturing surface water at times of high flow, filtering it and releasing it back to the underground aquifer.

HBRC's strategic planning manager Tom Skerman said work had already been done investigating the possibility of MAR in Central Hawke's Bay, and council believes it is a viable option.


"We will now move into pre-feasibility where we will work with local communities, authorities and all stakeholders to assess the options to determine the best configuration that will stabilise, recover and then provide a secure, sustainable supply of freshwater."

He said the technology has the potential to be implemented at multiple sites at relatively low cost.

Forest & Bird Freshwater Conservation Advocate Annabeth Cohen said MAR is not a long-term solution.

"Groundwater levels are dropping year on year because too much water is being taken out – more than can naturally recharge with rain and river water.

"We're going into water-debt."

She said while MAR can get us out of debt momentarily, it does not address the root causes of the problem.

"Our farms use too much water."

She said MAR may buy the community time, but the danger was that people would rely on it as a long term-solution, leading to bad practice in terms of water use, such as increased intensification of farming.


She said Hawke's Bay is vulnerable to increasing droughts and decreasing rainfall due to climate change, and overall the region needs to look at decreasing its water use, rather than using a hydrology trick.

IrrigationNZ chief executive Elizabeth Soal said MAR is widely used overseas and said the funding was exciting.

"Water drives the Hawke's Bay economy and it is critical to people's wellbeing and the region's prosperity.

"Both Hawke's Bay's agricultural production and its tourism sectors are reliant on having secure access to water to enable horticulture and viticulture to flourish."

She said new tools need to be drawn on in terms of water management.

"The region currently faces a number of challenges around water security and a changing climate will result in more frequent droughts, and more variable rainfall will affect both urban and rural communities."

As well as overseas examples, she said there are cases in New Zealand where MAR has been used successfully.

"In New Zealand a managed aquifer recharge trial has been running since June 2016 near Hinds in Canterbury and this project has helped recharge groundwater levels several kilometres away from the site."