RDRML unveils water storage plan
A new storage pond in the Mid Canterbury foothills that could hold 30,000,000 cubic metres of water – equivalent to 12,000 Olympic swimming pools - is being proposed by the Rangitata Diversion Race Management Ltd (RDRML).
The pioneering water management company, which has supplied water for hydro-generation, irrigation and stockwater in Ashburton District for more than 70 years, unveiled its plans at the Ashburton Water Zone Committee meeting today.
With drought biting home on the East Coast, improving security of supply for the company’s diverse customer base had an even more compelling business case, says RDRML CEO Ben Curry.
“We have been reviewing the feasibility of water storage for the past four years and the time is right to take this forward. There is a lot of interest in water storage and with our established infrastructure, we’re in a position to meet that need,” says Mr Curry.
The company expects to largely fill the pond using water it is already consented to take from the Rangitata River, possibly supplemented by flood flows.
“Storage will help us manage the water more efficiently and will also greatly improve irrigation reliability; something local farmers have desperately missed this summer,” he says.
Storing water during periods of low irrigation demand in early spring and late autumn from the alpine-fed Rangitata River may also allow further irrigation in Mid Canterbury. It also opens up the possibility of supplying water to farmers south of the river in parched South Canterbury. The pond would be developed across farming land adjacent to the Rangitata River, about 10km downstream of the RDR canal intake, most of which is already owned by the company. RDRML put the proposal in front of farmer groups last month and Ben Curry is meeting with environmental, tangata whenua, public health and recreational interest groups this month to gauge their reaction.
“To date the response from the community has been pretty positive. People recognize that a range of benefits could result from storing water and they want us to progress the idea,” he says.
The pond could store water to boost local stream flows and managed aquifer recharge (to enhance groundwater supply), as well as provide habitat for flora and fauna and support recreation.
An information event to share details of the proposal with the public will be organised in autumn once harvest is over.
While RDRML had analysed a range of storage scenarios from 5,000,000 to 100,000,000 cubic metres, the 30,000,000 cubic metre option appears to be the most realistic based on existing demand for water in the area and predicted future demand, says Mr Curry.
However the company is open to alternative advice as it wants to ensure any water storage development is ‘future proofed’ and sustainable for not only the district, but for the region’s water needs.
“Consenting a pond that has potentially multiple users and uses is going to be a complex task, so we need to get it right. We will be talking to a wide spectrum of stakeholders over the coming months to ensure we come up with the best possible water storage solution for this part of Canterbury,” says Mr Curry.
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