Local Government Magazine
3 Waters

Irrigation report finds room for improvement

A recent report by the Office of the Auditor-General (OAG) makes four recommendations to help councils improve the quality of information recorded from water meters and how they use this information.

This is the first of seven audits by the OAG that will look at how public organisations manage water.

The report, Monitoring how water is used for irrigation, looks at how freshwater used for irrigation is tracked and measured. It focuses on five regional councils and one unitary council. Together, these six councils monitor about 90 percent of the country’s freshwater used for irrigation.

The councils examined are: Northland Regional Council; Hawke’s Bay Regional Council; Otago Regional Council; Marlborough District Council; Bay of Plenty Regional Council; and Environment Canterbury.

The four recommendations are:

• the Ministry for the Environment review the part of the Resource Management (Measurement and Reporting of Water Takes) Regulations 2010 that allows for manual data collection and annual data provision, and work with councils that have oversight of water metering, to ensure that people and organisations holding water permits regularly submit accurate data using automated processes;

• councils continue to work with people and organisations holding water permits and intermediary data service providers to improve the timeliness and completeness of water-use data received;

• the Ministry for the Environment, councils that manage freshwater resources, and other interested groups work together to use water-use data to encourage compliance with water permits and the limits they impose, to enable effective and efficient use of freshwater resources; and

• the Ministry for the Environment evaluates the benefits of water metering to understand how it has changed the way people and organisations holding water permits have used what they have been allocated.

Commenting on its findings, the OAG said water meters had now been installed for almost all of the largest water takes. It noted the six councils are starting to use water meter information to educate permit holders about how they can use freshwater more efficiently and to show how much water is used.

“However, the quality of data collected can be poor, there can be issues with data that is collected manually, and there is scope for more co-ordination between councils.”

The OAG said councils need to work closely with permit holders to improve the reliability of water meter data.

“Good data collection and usage about water used for irrigation should lead to positive changes in behaviour, such as more effective and efficient use of freshwater and more water conserved.”

• For more information go to: bit.ly/OAG_Irrigation

This article was first published in the June 2018 issue of NZ Local Government Magazine.

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