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Oamaru Domestic Water Supply Would Continue

Media Release
For immediate distribution: 23 February 2004

Oamaru Domestic Water Supply Would Continue With Project Aqua

There would be no functional disruption to the Oamaru domestic water supply due to the construction or operation of Project Aqua. Oamaru’s domestic water supply comes from the Lower Waitaki Irrigation Company intake at Black Point on the south side of the Waitaki River.

“There would need to be modification of the Lower Waitaki Irrigation Company’s main irrigation race to enable the continuity of supply, if Project Aqua goes ahead,” says Meridian Energy spokesman Alan Seay.

This work has been planned, in consultation with the irrigation company, and would be carried out before construction of stage two of the Project Aqua scheme began. It would retain the existing supply of water for irrigators, Oamaru, and other users.

The preliminary design for the Lower Waitaki Irrigation Co irrigation mitigation has been reviewed and agreed to by the irrigation scheme directors. Meridian is continuing to negotiate with the Lower Waitaki Irrigation Co on proposed mitigation works. The proposed design is for the main irrigation race to cross under the canal near Georgetown.

Under the Project Aqua flow regime proposed in the applications for resource consents that Meridian Energy lodged in May 2003, consideration was made firstly for the minimum Waitaki River flow, then for both existing and new water supply and irrigators, and finally for hydro-electric generation. Existing abstractions (irrigation, town-water and commercial uses) already have resource consents for 41.6 cumecs of Waitaki River water. Meridian Energy suggested in June 2002 than an additional 25.7 cumecs should be set aside for future abstractive uses.

Since Meridian applied for its consents the Government has established a new process for allocation of water in the Waitaki catchment. A bill was introduced to Parliament on 3 December 2003 and is now being referred to a Select Committee for consideration. This bill provides for a water allocation framework to be introduced for the entire catchment.

Project Aqua is a proposed canal-based hydro-electric scheme in the Waitaki Valley near Oamaru. It would generate enough renewable electricity to power the equivalent of about 375,000 households in an average rainfall year and 250,000 households in a very dry year such as occurred in 1992 (a 1 in 20 year event).

Project Aqua must be commercially viable and environmentally sustainable to proceed. It must cost less than other forms of generation (between 4.5c and 5c per kilowatt-hour). A major potential benefit of Project Aqua is that it could enable irrigation in the Waitaki district.

ENDS

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