South's water levels benefit from rainfall

Water levels have recovered in Southland in most areas, with consistent rainfall over the past couple of months.

Environment Southland senior science co-ordinator Karen Wilson said even with the consistent rainfall, some farmers would still be dealing with the impact of low water levels at the start of the year.

``It's been reassuring to see the strong response from industry leaders and councils across the region, who pulled together under leadership from the Southland Rural Support Trust to deal with the situation. It has prompted businesses and those relying on stored water supplies to think more about such scenarios, which are increasingly likely to occur in future because of global climate change.''

Most of the region's aquifers were showing an increase in water levels in response to rainfall or reduced abstraction.

River levels had also largely returned to normal levels.

However, the Edendale aquifer was showing its lowest level since Environment Southland started monitoring in 2001.

Of the 15 aquifers monitored by Environment Southland, eight have levels within the range normally measured for this time of year, and two have levels above normal.

Five of the deeper aquifers were still below normal, but Environment Southland was expecting all to recharge fully over winter, Dr Wilson said.

``However, the situation at Edendale may be ongoing due to the nature of that aquifer. We're investigating how much of the low levels are due to climate patterns or other causes.''

As the colder months had arrived, lower soil temperatures and shorter days meant soil moisture levels had increased across the region and some of the monitored sites were periodically approaching field capacity.

``Farmers are advised to pay close attention to soil moisture levels when they're preparing to irrigate or apply fertiliser,'' Dr Wilson said,

``The end of April also marks the start of the `intensive winter grazing' period, which is the time when specific rules about grazing stock come into effect, to prevent pugging of soils. Farmers should consider the impact of winter grazing their stock, and be familiar with our rules around this.''

National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA)'s seasonal climate outlook for autumn says inland Otago and Southland temperatures are very likely above average (60%).

Rainfall totals, soil moisture levels and river flows are most likely to be in the near normal range (45%).


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