Currently in Otago water for horticulture, farming, viticulture and lifestyle blockers is allocated through a range of permits, some of which date back over 120 years. In many cases these permits are called mining privileges, and all of these are up for review in 2021. This sounds a long time but the preparation and recording for renewal of these is a very lengthy process.
The Otago Regional Council is setting minimum flows for catchments where water is extracted using these permit, and in many cases the minimum flows will see a reduction in permitted water for users. This essentially means many farmers and growers will have less water resource. So where to – simply efficient sustainable practices are the only way to continue.
Cromwell's water use in town skyrockets over summer, and peak use in summer is 600% greater than minimum winter use. Which means mostly garden use of treated water, meaning larger town water supply infrastructure and higher rates.
In response to this the Natural Resources team in Central Otago is making sustainable water use a ‘focus area’ in all programmes for learners, and in our own practical resources, that is the nursery, vineyard, cherry orchard and turf facilities.
What does all this mean for the lecturer and student on the ground at the Central Otago Campus?
In making water a focus area we are looking at the issue of water holistically and we are integrating sustain water use into:
· Programmes – that is specific units on water, irrigation and sustainable best practices.
· Resources – walking the talk, with soil moisture monitoring and climate based water modelling at our practical facilities.
· Acting as a leader in water conservation landscaping via the nursery and in a consulting role to councils and to the community.(See picture of the Water Conservation Garden in Cromwell) Students were involved in establishing this garden and continue to help maintain it.Students also propagate drought tolerant plants and locally eco-sourced natives, as well as fulfilling contracts to supply plants for local green roofs.
· Upskilling staff in current best practices with water.
· Working with groups such as Irrigation NZ to provide workshops and technical seminars/field days for farmers and growers and possibly offering qualification in irrigation.
A couple of interesting issues regarding water in Otago – many catchments where water is extracted are overallocated for irrigation water – work that one out, water trading is becoming a closer reality where the ‘permitted users’ of water will be able to trade/sell their water to others. In Austraila water trading on line has been the saviour of many farmers and growers in the drought areas.
For any further information send an email to email@example.com ( commercial irrigation and monitoring) or firstname.lastname@example.org (for water conservation landscaping and green roof plantings specifically)