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In the spotlight . . . The Kawarau River gets a special mention this week, as Gavin Dann continues to share his views and knowledge about water with The News. PHOTO: ALLIED PRESS FILES

The News continues its series about water in Central Otago and the Queenstown Lakes district. This week Alexandra man Gavin Dann returns as a columnist to share his views and knowledge on the topic.

I write this drinking my morning cup of coffee.

Usually, a moment to savour, but this morning I’m struck by the notion that my cup of coffee might in future contain sewage effluent – about the same amount as my dash of cream, but considerably less appetising.

Let me explain why.

If responses by the Central Otago District Council (CODC) and the Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLDC) to my concerns about river and lake water quality expressed in this “Protecting Our Water” series are anything to go by, they just don’t get it.

The CODC infrastructure services water manager said the council intends to improve the quality of local water by spending $30million on infrastructure over the next 10 years.

This will do nothing to stop septic waste flowing into our rivers.

It will worsen the problem at Alexandra by adding Clyde’s effluent to the discharge.

The anonymous spokesperson from the QLDC claimed last week that Project Shotover discharges on to land – “land” that in reality is river gravel in the Shotover delta.

The same person then acknowledged a daily discharge to the river of around 10,000 cubic metres – when figures I obtained from the Otago Regional Council (ORC) show that between March and July 2018, this figure was exceeded 72% of the time, and was as high as 15,598 cubic metres on May 22, 2018.

The QLDC spokesperson then says: “The Kawarau River flows above 200 cubic metres per second [cumecs]”, when Otago Regional Council data shows a mean annual low flow of 84 cumecs.

The lowest flow recorded in the Kawarau River at Chard Rd is 25.7 cumecs .. far from the 200 cumecs claimed by the QLDC.

The QLDC has failed to comment on the hundreds of stormwater pipes carrying toxins into Lakes Wakatipu and Wanaka and local rivers and justifies its discharges by saying that treated effluent in the Kawarau River accounts for “just 0.06% of the daily flow” (or a smaller dash of cream in my coffee) .. as if this is OK. It is not OK!

But let’s look at where these numbers take us.

It’s not unreasonable to assume Queenstown grows to the point where the discharge reaches the consented 45,000 cubic metres per day.

Using the ORC’s “lowest seven-day low-flow” figures for the Kawarau River, means that on occasions the sewage effluent in the river could reach 1% of the daily flow.

The same proportion of effluent to river water as 3ml – or 30 drops – in a 300ml cup of coffee.

The QLDC spokesperson says “treated waste water in the river should be undetectable”.

I invite that spokesperson to stop obfuscating the truth.

Better still, they might like to imagine themselves drinking their morning cup of coffee in Alexandra in a few years’ time when, based on today’s projections, their dash of cream could be joined in equal measure by a septic discharge – enabled and approved by our local councils.

It’s enough to leave a very bad taste in this columnist’s mouth.