The Otago Regional Council is working with Central Otago farmers in a bid to monitor and improve water quality in the area.
At a meeting in Omakau last week, local farmers discussed the strategy with ORC environmental resource scientist Rachel Ozanne and environmental officer Melanie Heather.
The plan involves ongoing testing of water at Thompson’s Creek in a cross-section of three tributaries, as well as regular monitoring in Waipiata and Bannockburn.
Ms Ozanne said the project would continue until May, with testing carried out on a fortnightly basis.
Testing at the site began about six weeks ago, meaning it was too early to interpret results, but the data would be used to recognise patterns and what affected the quality of the water, she said.
The information is being carried out in preparation for changes in water use rights, which come into effect in 2021.
Ms Ozanne said the water quality in Omakau reflected the increase in population in the area.
“A lot of new people have come in, and a lot of new farmers.
“This project is looking at water quality in the whole catchment.
“The aim is to get people in the catchment to know more about water quality.”
Limmerick Downs dairy farm owner Hamish Stratford co-ordinated the meeting, and said the discussions centred around the strategy and what further testing needed to be done.
It was important for landowners to work with the ORC, he said.
Matakanui Station owner Andrew Paterson has already been conducting water quality tests on his own property and is encouraging other farmers to do the same.
Analytical Research Laboratories Ltd was also putting together a business case to have ongoing independent water testing in the area, he said.
“The more farmers that get involved, the less it will cost overall,” Mr Paterson said.
“At the end of the day, it’s still going to be money well spent.”
The more farmers who got on board with water testing, the better, he said.
“We as farmers need to be able to identify issues. If we identify the issues we can address them.”
The water tests would take a range of measurements, including the flow rate, temperature, and acidity, he said.
“We are also looking at micro invertebrates as an indication of water quality, which is taking it a step further than what needs to be done.”
Omakau farmers have also formed a catchment group to manage the quantity of water used from the Manuherikia River, he said, which involved managing consents along with supplementary flows and minimum flows.
Community-based water management groups were encouraged by the ORC, Ms Ozanne said.
“Having keen involvement of farmers in the community is crucial to the success of the programme.”
The discussions come as the ORC is preparing to host a series of consultation sessions from Queenstown through to Balclutha as part of its regional water plan.
For more information on the discussions, visit www.orc.govt.nz.