Pomahaka low - water use restricted

The Pomahaka River at Kelso, showing signs of lower water levels. PHOTO: JOHN COSGROVE
The Pomahaka River at Kelso, showing signs of lower water levels. PHOTO: JOHN COSGROVE
Water restrictions have hit once again in West Otago, as the Clutha District Council continues its efforts to improve the longer-term situation.

The council reminded Tapanui and Waipahi residents, and members of the Glenkenich and Moa Flat rural water schemes, to conserve water this month, in order to minimise effects on low Pomahaka River flows and reservoirs.

Council service delivery group manager Jules Witt said although the river had dipped below the minimum flow level triggering water restrictions a fortnight ago, it had since returned above the minimum.

However, flows were dropping once more, so the council was asking residents to be more conscious of their water usage.

Summer mode stage 1 water usage restrictions were also in place, predominantly affecting garden watering, Mr Witt said.

“Our water-take consents require us to look at restrictions when the minimum flow is reached.

“We want to alert people to the fact the river is low and that they need to conserve water where they can. We would expect at this time of the year that rain would start to be more frequent, and the river will recover.’’

He said further restrictions were unlikely.

‘‘Our level 1 restrictions are still in place and, due to the time of year, the demand is actually down on the summer peak demands. As such, we don’t think more stringent restrictions would have a huge impact on demand.’’

Stage 1 summer mode restrictions mean garden watering can take place only between 8pm and 8am.

Watering systems and sprinklers can be used during that period, but should not be left unattended.

The Clutha District Council has continued to explore ways to improve water conservation in the district, following recurring near-drought conditions during recent summers.

Earlier assessments established peak summer water usage in Tapanui was more than double the national average of 227 litres a day, at an average 500 litres.

A large part of this was attributed to garden watering, which could be targeted through community education.

Measures to reduce water loss, such as an overall reduction in water pressure and zonal metering, also remained under consideration, a council spokesman said.

A fire hazard warning-style water conservation sign is expected to be installed in the town’s Four Square supermarket car park shortly.

From a recreational point of view, the low flow in the Pomahaka was not unduly concerning, Otago Fish&Game spokesman Bruce Quirey said.

‘‘The Pomahaka offers some excellent autumn fishing, with cooler days and potentially good mayfly hatches, despite the low levels.

“Low rainfall for the past two months is the most likely cause. It’s unlikely to be related to abstraction [for irrigation] as the river is not over-allocated.’’

Mr Quirey said Otago Regional Council monitoring at Burkes Ford showed levels last week were at 3.67 cumecs, compared with the river’s median flow of about 15 cumecs.

JOHN.COSGROVE @cluthaleader.co.nz

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