Region's rivers dropping to point of possible irrigation stoppages

Otago rivers are dropping steadily again as the benefits from rain earlier this month evaporate.

The Taieri catchment is again teetering on the edge of a widespread irrigation stoppage and South Otago rivers are dropping steadily after a week of warm temperatures and little or no rain - the greatest amount to fall in Otago was 3.5mm at Sullivans Dam, near Dunedin.

Forecasts again indicated mostly dry weather was to continue, although while a front was expected to move over southern and eastern parts of New Zealand tomorrow and early Sunday, it was only expected to bring showers.

Otago Regional Council chief executive Peter Bodeker said the council had been talking to irrigators about options as rivers again dropped to or below their minimum flows.

''We're back where were a couple of weeks ago. There is little rain forecast.''

Four irrigators above Waipiata were already unable to irrigate, which was keeping the Taieri River in that stretch at its minimum flow, he said.

Earlier in the month the council had been about to implement a Notice of Water Shortage Direction for the Taieri catchment but the region got some steady rainfall and river levels increased above their minimum flows.

The council was also keeping a close eye on South Otago rivers such as the Pomahaka, North Otago's Waianakarua and smaller creeks in Central Otago.

Outside of the Taieri, the aim was to try to get farmers to work together to reduce water takes so a water shortage direction did not have to be implemented, he said.

Farmers had been working with the council giving it every assistance, including in the Waipiata case, voluntarily providing their water take data, Mr Bodeker said.

rebecca.fox@odt.co.nz

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