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Drought watch in place over holidays

21 December 2012

Drought watch in place over holidays

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council has stepped up its drought watch over the past few weeks, and will be monitoring conditions and consent compliance closely over the holidays.

While the weather is predicted to be more unsettled than it has been over the past few weeks, with some rain providing temporary relief, the region is unlikely to see significant rain.

“Our message to farmers and croppers over the holiday period is to keep an eye on the environmental data on HBRC’s website and make sure that you can abide by consent conditions when bans come into force, especially if you are away from your property for a few days holiday,” says HBRC Environmental Management Group Manager Iain Maxwell.

The ‘Environmental Data’ links are in a prominent place on the homepage of the Regional Council’s website, www.hbrc.govt.nz – look under “Low Flows” tab. Live “River Level” data is also on this home page section, for people who want to see general trends. Lower down the home page under Quick Links, farmers can log in and get more details.

“The majority of water takes subject to higher flow cut off levels on the main rivers plus many streams are on ban. As river levels drop, additional bans will flow through to the larger group of consent holders on lower minimum flows, especially on the Tukituki, Ngaruroro and Raupare,” says Mr Maxwell.

Any enquiries about low flows or possible illegal irrigation can be made to HBRC throughout the holiday period on the Council’s hotline 0800 108 838.

HBRC compliance staff will be monitoring irrigation throughout the summer by checking irrigators’ water meters and using aerial monitoring. Irrigators should be clear about the conditions for their water takes, particularly when low flow bans kick in, so they can keep compliant.

Temperatures are predicted to stay high. Soil moisture is already very low across the southern and central area of the region.

In the next week or so, there may be occasional showers of around 20 mm that may help crops, but 40-50mm would be needed for pasture and this is unlikely to happen with current weather conditions.

River levels are starting to approach critical levels and a number of bans are already in force. If there is no significant rain, the major rivers are likely to drop between Christmas and New Year and irrigation bans will come into force affecting most of the consent holders with water takes from river and stream systems.

Groundwater levels in the Heretaunga and Ruataniwha aquifers are dropping to low levels not seen for the last couple of years, when wet summers kept levels up. In some fringe areas around the aquifer, the water levels are now dropping below the levels where inefficient pump systems can reach.

ENDS

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