Fed Farmers laud ORC attention on urban water

Federated Farmers is praising the Otago Regional Council for turning its attention to urban water quality, saying rural areas have been the sole focus for too long.

In its draft long-term plan, the council dedicated $3.32million over the next 10 years to focus on urban discharges and the effect on water quality.

Federated Farmers Otago senior policy adviser David Cooper said the council was finally introducing balance by placing focus on urban water.

``Most farmers want to see all contributing factors to water quality treated equally. When people think of bad water quality statistics they think of farmers, because that's been the focus of the last five or six years.

``Farming does contribute to poor water quality, but urban use does also.''

Some farmers were ``starting to get a hand on what some of the solutions'' were, he said.

``Farmers like to swim as well.''

Regional council acting chairwoman Gretchen Robertson said the days of allowing local waterways or coastal environments to deteriorate through runoff and waste pollutants were over.

``Communities and their local councils are united in their desire for good water quality across Otago.''

The plan was partly influenced by the council witnessing water quality issues associated with urban runoff and wastewater in parts of Otago, she said.

``Some of the solutions to these problems will be costly and will need very good forward planning and budgeting. We are very keen to continue to work closely with local councils to derive a clear pathway forward.''

The issues faced in urban environments included densely packed septic tanks, stormwater impacts on local waterways, sewer overflows, and runoff after ground disturbance, she said.

In a collective statement, regional council science staff said the project could lead to changes such as looking more closely at the performance of septic tanks and systems near water bodies, requiring some form of storm water treatment, and old long drops potentially not being permitted.

There was past work on urban water quality by the council, such as the water plan which was made operative in 2004.

As a result of the plan local authorities and industries made ``substantial'' investments to improve the quality of their discharges, the statement said.



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