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Hawea Flat water table levels lowest on record

Hawea Flat water table levels lowest on record

“The Upper Clutha Farmers Group are becoming increasingly concerned about the drain Contact Energy is having on the Hawea Flat water supply. Lake Hawea’ s water level follows a seasonal cycle which is controlled by Contact Energy to provide electricity supply when demand is at its peak. The Group’s concern stems from Contact’s move to lower operating levels in lake Hawea to generate more electricity. Traditionally spring is when the lake’s level is at its lowest, however the current level is the lowest since monitoring began. The farming community believe with Contact change of operating levels it is having a far greater effect on the ground water flows through the aquafers in the Hawea Flat region.

With Contact wanting to run the lake at a constant low level, many of the districts older farmers believe this will continue to cause a direct effect on many of the Hawea flat bores. The impact will be felt right across the Hawea Community. The Upper Clutha Farming Group want to be involved in a more scientific and forensic understanding of the current and future state of the water supply. The Group are wanting to sit down and discuss the issue with the community and key stakeholders to resolve this issue before they start irrigating this season.

Contact Energy as part of their resource consent are required to operate and maintain a particular level between 338 and 345.5 meters above sea level, with exceptions permitted for either flood management or if the Electricity Commission deem additional electricity is required.

It has come to the Group’s attention in recent months that many of the local residential water bores in the Hawea Flat region are significantly down on previous years and drying out. This causes significant concern for the Group who have not been irrigating on their farms within the basin for the past five months. The local farmers group worries that they’ll be lined up as scapegoats or blamed for the short fall as it becomes more apparent heading into summer months and the impacts on all water users are felt.

The Group’s concern has also been supported with water expert reports and opinions along with the data obtained from the ORC. Water experts conclude that generally a lowering of 4 meters in the lake, roughly equates to a drop in the bore of 1 meter with bores closer to the lake being effected more. One expert has recommended that further monitoring to the east of the basin would give a greater indication to the extent of the drain and its impact.

The Upper Clutha Farmers Group are expecting the ORC and Contact Energy will respond swiftly to dispel fears that are rising in the community that more bores will run dry and is more closely monitored going forwards to ensure it does not happen again.

The Group simply wishes to ensure the precious resource is appropriately managed and monitored for all water users in the district.”


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