On the back of one of our worst ever recorded droughts, Bay of Plenty Regional Council is asking water users to start thinking about and planning their water use to be better prepared this summer.
The summer of 2019/2020 saw some of the lowest-ever recorded rainfall and stream flows in the Bay of Plenty.
During the heat of last year’s summer, Bay of Plenty Regional Council adopted and implemented the Water Shortage Standard Operating Procedure to help deal with the event. The procedure is currently being refined further to provide staff and water users more clarity around when a Water Shortage Direction would be issued if dry weather continues.
A Water Shortage Direction is used in exceptional circumstances, to put temporary extra water use restrictions in place where needed to protect waterways from harm.
Bay of Plenty Regional Council Water Shortage Event Manager Steve Pickles said droughts were challenging events to navigate.
“Floods are generally associated with wet weather events. Droughts on the other hand are a creeping phenomenon that slowly builds so we need to plan ahead and take action at the right times to mitigate their impact,” he said.
Mr Pickles said a drought not only affected the environment but the wider economy.
“We were really close to implementing water take restrictions last summer which would have affected horticulture and agriculture in particular. So it’s really important that we are prepared for future restrictions and start thinking about how we can manage operations with much lower water use.”
Bay of Plenty Regional Council currently manages more than 1400 consents for water takes in the Bay of Plenty.
Consent conditions carefully balance water use and waterway health, and in periods of significant drought, the Regional Council needs to be able to be able to put additional restrictions in place to ensure waterways stay healthy.
Mr Pickles said that knowing who was taking water and how much water they were taking through the consenting process benefited everyone.
“It means we get a better understanding of exactly what has been allocated and what is being used so that if we do have to put on additional restrictions, those restrictions are shared more fairly across more users,” he said.
Kiwifruit orchard owner Ross Bawden said he’s always had a resource consent for water use on his orchard. He said it provides him with security in how he operates his orchard which allows him to play his part in protecting the environment. “If there are other farms or orchards who are considering applying for a consent to take water there is no easier time than now,” he said. “Give one of the Regional Council’s consent planners a call to talk it through.”