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The Otago Regional Council is holding a series of information sessions throughout the region in the first step towards changing its water plan.
But changes to the plan, which could include lake level and allocation limits for Lakes Wakatipu, Wanaka, Hawea, Dunstan and Roxburgh, are at least two years away.
The seven people who attended yesterday's first session in Queenstown were outnumbered by nine council staff.
Council senior policy analyst Tom De Pelsemaeker said the updated national policy statement for freshwater management required the council to set minimum river flows, allocation limits, and minimum levels for lakes and aquifers - all to avoid over-allocation and ensure the efficient use of water.
The purpose of the sessions was to get an understanding of how the community valued the Clutha, its two main tributaries and its source lakes.
Mr De Pelsemaeker said the council would then spend about a year preparing reports identifying management options for the limits, which would be put out for public consultation in a second round of consultation.
Demand for water was growing in the region as a result of urban expansion, as well as the intensification of agriculture and need for irrigation.
Because of the growing awareness of water's importance for social wellbeing, there was a heightened risk of competition between new and existing users, he said.
Lake level and allocation limits were an important consideration because the three largest lakes - Wakatipu, Wanaka and Hawea - were the source of two-thirds of the water flowing out of the Clutha into the Pacific Ocean.
The remaining sessions will be held at Cromwell (November 27), Roxburgh (December 4), Wanaka (November 23), Alexandra (November 28) and Balclutha (December 5).