Water Shortage FAQ
What does Environment Southland do when there are low water levels?
Environment Southland monitors water levels and flow at a number of locations across the region, in both surface and groundwater all year round.
We share this information with the public, but also follow-up with the city and district councils.
Environment Southland is also a member of the Rural Support Trust’s stakeholder group which meets when there are long, dry spells impacting on the rural parts of our region.
We ensure consent conditions are complied with, as many consented water takes contain cut-off conditions as part of that consent.
What might happen if Southland continues to get limited rain?
Water shortages can affect the environment, agricultural sector, economy and wider community.
Environment Southland would continue to work with stakeholders and impacted communities while there were water shortages.
Under the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) Environment Southland has responsibility for managing the adverse effects of water use. Environment Southland’s regional planning documents contain polices, rules and methods to manage pressures on the region’s water resources.
In times of serious water shortages, the RMA allows additional restrictions to be placed on permitted and consented uses through issuing water shortage directions.
Environment Southland also maintains a standard operating procedure for actions during a water shortage, from business-as-usual operations through to issuing a water shortage direction (Status 1 through to Status 4)
If there is a drought what should I do?
If you hold a consent for taking water, either from a lake, river or stream, or from groundwater, then you need to be familiar with the conditions on your consent. You should also check and maintain bores, fix any leaks, and make a plan for stock feed and business continuity.
Make sure Environment Southland has the correct contact details for you so you can receive automated messages when water levels reach your cut-off points.
Extended hot, dry weather can put pressure on not only town supplies, but also those on tank water. It’s important to conserve water as much as you can while the warm weather continues.
For farmers, droughts can cause quite a bit of concern with stock feed and stock drinking water. Under the RMA, you can take water for reasonable needs of stock drinking – but we would encourage you to look at other areas like in the dairy shed, where you might be able to conserve water.
Environment Southland will work with farmers and businesses in the rural community to support those impacted by the dry weather. Farmers who think they might strike issues with effluent discharges, water takes and excess stock should get in touch with the compliance team. Email email@example.com to touch base.
How can I help conserve water?
At Status 3 and 4, everybody playing their part to conserve water is crucial. City and district councils will advise of water restrictions within relevant council boundaries. Simple tips for conserving water include:
- Don’t leave garden sprinklers and hoses unattended
- Don’t leave taps running when you are cleaning your teeth
- Showers are better than baths (but don’t stand in the shower longer than you need to).
- In the laundry make sure you do full loads of washing, rather than many small loads.
When would a water shortage direction be issued?
A water shortage direction is a tool Environment Southland can use to require the reduction in use or discharges to protect the health of the resource.
The direction would be issued when water levels reached critical levels, where even consented and permitted takes would negatively affect the river, lake or groundwater.
Environment Southland will give 72 hours’ notice of a water shortage direction being issued where practical.
What happens if I see someone irrigating despite a water shortage direction being issued?
Some properties in Southland will have additional water storage facilities for exactly this situation. This means they are able to use their own water supply to continue irrigating despite the water shortage direction being issued. Environment Southland will be actively monitoring the situation.
Where can I follow what is happening with the dry conditions?
Environment Southland monitors water levels throughout the region and information can be found on surface and groundwater closest to you at www.es.govt.nz/low-water-levels. The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) provides seasonal climate outlooks which include the Southland region here https://niwa.co.nz/climate/seasonal-climate-outlook.