Monitoring how water is used for irrigation
Auditor-General’s report published, Monitoring how water is used for irrigation
The Auditor-General’s report Monitoring how water is used for irrigation was presented to the House of Representatives today.
In this report, we look at how freshwater used for irrigation is tracked and measured. We focus on five regional councils and one unitary council: Northland Regional Council; Hawke’s Bay Regional Council; Otago Regional Council; Marlborough District Council; Bay of Plenty Regional Council; and Environment Canterbury. These six councils monitor about 90% of freshwater used for irrigation within New Zealand.
In 2010, the Government introduced regulations that required the people and organisations that use large quantities of freshwater to measure how much they take. This was done with water meters. Local authorities were required to oversee the installation of these water meters. Overall, we found that the six councils we audited have implemented the regulations effectively.
Water meters have now been installed for almost all of the largest water takes. The six councils are starting to use water meter information to educate people and organisations holding water permits (permit holders) about how they can use freshwater more efficiently and to show how much water is used. However, the quality of data collected can be poor, there can be issues with data that is collected manually, and there is scope for more co-ordination between councils.
There are opportunities for councils to improve the quality of their data. Although progress has been made, councils need to work closely with permit holders to improve the reliability of water meter data. Good data collection and usage about water used for irrigation should lead to positive changes in behaviour, such as more effective and efficient use of freshwater and more water conserved.
The six councils are working to encourage permit holders to use freshwater more efficiently. In our view, there are opportunities for councils to use data and work together to support permit holders to change to more efficient forms of water use. Central government also needs to take the lead in co-ordinating knowledge and sharing practices that could result in more efficient use of freshwater.
We have made four recommendations to help improve the quality of information recorded from water meters and how councils use this information.