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ORC clarifying residual flows for water takes

02 August 2017

ORC clarifying residual flows for water takes

Otago Regional Council (ORC) is hosting a series of public discussion sessions throughout Otago on the development of a plan change, which is designed to provide certainty and flexibility when residual flows are set on surface water permits.

ORC director policy, planning, and resource management Fraser McRae says that Council has listened to public feedback, and is hosting sessions around the region to provide clarity about the purpose of developing this plan change and who may be affected.

The ten discussion sessions begin in Tapanui at the West Otago Community Centre at 2pm on Friday 4 August, and conclude in Middlemarch on Friday 11 August at 5.30pm (see detailed list of all sessions below).

ORC held six drop-in sessions throughout the region in February, to outline the process for development of the plan change, and understand what people value about the smaller rivers and streams throughout Otago.

“There are existing Water Plan provisions that relate to residual flows. We are developing the proposed plan change to address the existing uncertainty and lack of flexibility,” Mr McRae said.

Residual flows apply as a condition on individual surface water permits, and specify the flow of water that is left in the river immediately downstream of the water take. They are usually applied to tributaries. Minimum flows are set on takes from main stems of rivers to allow water to be taken from flows above where the minimum flow is set. When the flow of water in a river drops to the minimum flow level every consented water user within that catchment must stop taking water.

“Through this plan change we aim to provide those with surface water takes certainty, by allowing greater flexibility in choosing a measurement site, developing a standard method to calculate a residual flow, and setting a broader list of values for consideration in assessment of the residual flow,” he said.

Those most likely to be affected by this plan change are people or organisations applying for a new surface water permit, or those replacing an expiring surface water permit or deemed permit.

“If you have a residual flow condition on your current water permit you won’t be affected by the plan change until you replace your permit, or unless you choose to join a larger group to take water, or wish to have your existing residual flow conditions reviewed. A common reason for seeking a review of conditions is to gain flexibility in the flow site location,” Mr McRae said.
Likely benefits of the proposed plan change include increased certainty, greater flexibility to form water user groups and determine the best measuring spot, reduced costs, and greater protection for what the community value about Otago’s surface water.

Following the discussion sessions, public feedback closes at the end of August. ORC will consult the community before formally notifying the plan change next year.

For more information, go to orc.govt.nz/residualflows


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