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Waitohi water storage options assessed

The values people place on water have guided a new report on three water storage options for the Waitohi River in the Hurunui district of North Canterbury.

The independent report was commissioned by Environment Canterbury and supported by the Hurunui District Council, the Hurunui-Waiau Zone Committee, and the Canterbury Water Management Strategy Regional Committee.

Environment Canterbury Commissioner and Hurunui-Waiau Zone Committee member David Bedford said a major water storage scheme such as the Waitohi would deliver economic benefits to the region as well as satisfying environmental and recreational needs.

Evaluation of the three water storage options in the report takes into account the wide range of values set out in the Canterbury Water Management Strategy. These include environmental enhancement of our rivers and lakes, water for economic development, safe and reliable drinking water, as well as cultural aspects and the recreational use of freshwater.

The potential for water storage in the Waitohi River catchment also aligns with the recommendations in the Hurunui-Waiau Zone Committee’s Zone Implementation Programme (ZIP), prepared under the Canterbury Water Management Strategy.

The Zone Implementation Programme was completed in August 2011 following more than a year of community engagement and discussions with stakeholders on water management priorities in the Hurunui-Waiau zone.

The Hurunui-Waiau Zone Committee recommended deferring the investigation of water storage options at Lake Sumner and the South Branch of the Hurunui River for two years until the Waitohi option had been more fully investigated.

Three organisations - Hurunui Water Project, Direct Project Management, and Fraser Geologics – have now developed storage proposals for the Waitohi River. The report identifies the Hurunui Water Project proposal as the preferred option.

“Years of investigations and research have shown a storage scheme such as that proposed by the Hurunui Water Project is an effective way to provide water to meet a broad range of community needs,” said David Bedford.

“This includes more secure and better quality water for rural community water supplies as well as for recreational opportunities,” he said.

“The zone committee recommended investigating the Waitohi storage option because of preservation of environmental and recreational values while still enabling irrigation development.

“The independent report found a storage scheme in the Waitohi is likely to be affordable.

“Further work by the developer will be needed, however, to determine the impact of the higher water costs of this project on farming practice and how this is likely to affect uptake and participation by land users,” said David Bedford.

The report panel used set criteria to test each Waitohi option including capital cost, environmental impact, contribution of hydroelectricity, and expediency. It also compared various factors such as dam size, water volume, construction cost, hectares irrigated, and commercial considerations, for each of the three proposals.

The report found the Hurunui Water Project proposal for the Waitohi generally outperformed the other two proposals when taking an integrated view of key criteria. The other proposals, however, did have specific features which were worthy of consideration.

The report concluded all three proposals could be designed and operated to achieve good alignment with the Canterbury Water Management Strategy, the Hurunui-Waiau Zone Implementation Programme, as well as the proposed Hurunui and Waiau River Regional Plan.

The report will be considered more fully at the Hurunui-Waiau Zone Committee’s next meeting on February 20.

View the report (1.2 MB)

View more information about the Hurunui-Waiau zone committee

The Waitohi Selection Panel

The report was prepared by the Waitohi Selection Panel, made up of three professionals with complementary technical and commercial skills.

They were: Greg Anderson from Northington Partners (financial and commercial); Andrew Fenemor from Landcare Research (hydrology and policy alignment); and Walter Lewthwaite from URS (engineering and technical).