Open stock water races flowing across the Canterbury Plains
may be just a memory in the years ahead as the Ashburton
District Council moves to provide water more efficiently.
Mid Canterbury has about 2400km of water races supplying
233,000ha. There are 27 intakes to the scheme, including 10
in the Ashburton River catchment.
The council has agreed to reduce stock water abstraction from
the river and make any ''unrequired'' water available for
environmental or productive benefit.
Recently, it surveyed 2030 properties receiving stock water,
owned by about 1800 landowners. Seventy-five percent replied
- which consultants said gave them representation of all
About 58% of those who replied said the stock water supply
was essential for their farming operation. However, 87% of
respondents indicated they had access to sources of water
other than the stock water network.
Research by consultants Opus has found 3500 litres per second
of water could be saved if stock water was piped. That water
could be returned to the environment and used for other
purposes, including irrigation.
Ashburton mayor Angus McKay wanted to see all parties
satisfied with a healthy, clean water supply.
''For the future of producing clean food from this district
we require clean water for on-farm factories such as dairying
and vegetable processing,'' Mr McKay said.
''For future land use changes in this district we will need
good quality water delivered to properties. There is an
environmental gain as well as a health gain.''
Council would now commission an ecological survey, which must
be started before February 2014. This was required as part of
the council's consent conditions to take water but would also
identify areas that may be maintained in their present form.
The survey will identify areas of high ecological value or
areas of valuable habitat for species such as the Canterbury
mudfish, an endangered native species.
Discussions will continue with irrigation scheme operators
about the possibility of sharing trenches or conveying stock
water in irrigation scheme pipelines. The Ashburton Water
Management Zone Committee would continue to be informed and
further discussion will be held with the property owners who
rely on the stock water scheme.
Financing piping of the races will be a major consideration.
The council has budgeted $100,000 in this financial year for
more detailed investigations, but no decisions have been made
on any piping work which may be required.
''It is envisaged that we will be able to offset some of the
cost by selling some water for the purposes of irrigation,''
Mr McKay said.
''It will be a limited amount but this is still to be worked
through with Environment Canterbury.
''Currently, there is a moratorium on further consents for
taking water from the Ashburton River,'' he said.
''When the underground zonal limits for taking water were put
in place by Environment Canterbury in 2004/05, there was
provision inside that allocation for stock water supplies for
the Ashburton District Council. Environment Canterbury has
said they will honour that commitment.''
- by Maureen Bishop