Drive to improve water quality

The Otago Regional Council has an ongoing scientific study programme under way, including establishing its own water monitor farm programme as part of its drive to enhance and improve water quality in the region under Plan Change 6A.

Regional council manager of resource science Matt Hickey said four farms had been offered as part of the water monitoring programme.

''At the moment, we have three dairy farms and one sheep and beef farm, and we are looking for a sheep, beef and cropping one for something a bit different.''

The farms were in Hawea Flat and the Maniototo.

''We are looking for one in North Otago as well,'' Mr Hickey said.

The council was also working with the Maniototo Irrigation Company, which would help with water sampling. DairyNZ was looking at setting up its own water monitoring programme as well, he said.

During the project, measurements would be taken of inputs such as fertiliser and any loss or discharges would be measured.

''The next stage is for us to set up sample sites on the farms, and some will require putting in monitoring equipment such as rain gauges and flow monitors.

''We hope to have those in by the start of September.''

The team would release reports every six months and the regional council would hold field days.

It had several other projects on the go, including working with Calder Stewart on a wetland near Milton and with forestry company Rayonier NZ to measure sediment loss and turbidity in felled areas in Glendhu Forest.

Mr Hickey said the Otago Regional Council was also looking at validation work of nitrogen loss levels in Wanaka and Hawea lakes area using Overseer.

His work included investigating issues at Kakanui, near Oamaru, looking at leaching near sensitive aquifers and high intensity dairy farming sites, and water quality for the Lindis and Cardrona areas, as well as a large programme focusing on minimum flows for Otago rivers.

''It takes a while to get around to each catchment.''

His water budget for the programmes was $5,187,000. The minimum flow projects would cost about $1.5 million per financial year.

He appreciated the assistance from the farmers and the companies.

- by Yvonne O'Hara