IrrigationNZ welcomes new irrigation funding

It’s been a positive month for irrigation developments with the welcome news of government funding of $7.85 million for Canterbury irrigation projects that will help lift the water quality of Lake Ellesmere and groundwater in the Hinds area.

The Central Plains Water scheme has been injected with $6.64m to help get its next stages through to construction, and $312,000 has been put towards a pilot study for aquifer recharge in the Hinds area which aims to restore spring-fed stream flows and alongside address groundwater nitrate issues. 

The Hinds recharge project is particularly exciting because it’s the first time techniques commonly used overseas are being used to improve water quality in New Zealand. The Managed Aquifer Recharge Project, or MAR as it’s known in the industry, was officially launched at the start of this month.

The trial – a first in New Zealand – will use clean Rangitata River water to soak into the aquifer in an area of high nitrate concentrations, diluting the nitrate, whilst also providing better reliability for groundwater takes and stream flows.

This, alongside the move to good management practice through audited farm environment plans, will allow natural ecosystems to regenerate.

The water will come from the Ashburton District Council’s unused stock water allocation via the Rangitata Diversion Race and Valetta Irrigation Scheme. Groundwater, surface water and climate monitoring will be built into computer models to distinguish the trial effects from other water influences.

Managed aquifer recharge is used a lot in the United States to replenish aquifers, but is new to New Zealand. This trial is about replenishing aquifers and diluting nitrates. It could be a great tool going forward with excellent environmental outcomes. The success of the trial could lead to it being used in other catchments in New Zealand.

The project is expected to bring many benefits to the Ashburton community including economic, environment and recreation.

IrrigationNZ also welcomes the announcement by Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy that responsibility for the Government’s irrigation programmes will change next month when Crown Irrigation Investments Limited takes over grants for the development of regional irrigation schemes. This role was previously carried out by the MPI’s Irrigation Acceleration Fund, which will continue to be involved in supporting early stage strategic water studies and smaller irrigation scheme developments.

We think it’s a good move to link the Government’s irrigation investment agency more closely to developing schemes, as they have expertise, and their help and advice is welcome in setting up the commercial side of community water storage projects as this is one of the biggest hurdles to be overcome. In the past we have often commented that the two government organisations involved in irrigation should be joined at the hip so this makes much sense.

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