NRRP Variation 1 (notified July 2004) established approaches for allocating groundwater in Canterbury. Variation 2 (notified November 2005) introduced a change to the determination of annual volumes - affecting the estimates of effective allocation. Variation 4 (notified June 2007) amended the approach for determining groundwater allocation limits by including the actual allocation limits in the NRRP. Some of the allocation limits have been changed but some remain the same as were determined in 2004.
In February 2004, Environment Canterbury considered 2 reports on the allocation of groundwater resources in Canterbury:
In recent years, demand for groundwater in Canterbury has escalated. Information on the state of groundwater resources is a vital input into the resource consent process. The Groundwater Allocation Limits technical report provides an important tool to assist in assessing the cumulative effects of existing and proposed abstractions.
This report draws on existing and new information to identify zones where conservative assessments indicate that groundwater resources are already highly-allocated. On the tables showing the allocation limits and the estimates of water use. There are three levels of allocation status identified - red, yellow and white:
Red zones, where the allocation is 100% or more, relative to the precautionary trigger levels
Yellow zones, where the water is 80% - 100% allocated, relative to the same levels.
These zones are shown on page 22 (Table 6.1) of the technical report and page 11 of the policy report.
Environment Canterbury has had irrigation consultants review the standards for peak and seasonal irrigation demand in Schedule WQN9, Chapter 5, of the proposed Natural Resource Regional Plan [NRRP].
The revised table of irrigation standards has been developed as a result of concerns raised with the original figures included in Schedule WQN9.
Schedule WQN9 Revision Technical Report (pdf 952kB)
In September 2004, revised estimates of the allocation limits in 21 of the 30 groundwater allocation zones were completed by Environment Canterbury's groundwater resources section (Groundwater Allocation Limits: land-based recharge estimates (pdf 4.76 MB) Report No. U04/97).
These estimates are based on average-annual rainfall plus irrigation (land-based recharge), the so-called "2nd order approach". In November 2004 these new allocation limits were adopted for 15 of the 21 groundwater zones for which 2nd order estimates have been made. For the remaining 6 zones, further investigation is needed before a decision on the adoption of the 2nd order limits will be reviewed.
PLEASE NOTE: In addition to these notes you may wish to seek your own legal and specialist technical advice.
It is a system developed to follow the policy outlined in the Proposed Natural Resources Regional Plan (NRRP) for the setting of allocation limits for groundwater allocation zones.
The setting of groundwater allocation limits commenced when the Proposed Natural Resources Regional Plan (NRRP) was notified in July 2004. A method for calculating these was included in Schedule WQN4. Variation 4 to the NRRP has amended Schedule WQN4 by actually listing allocation limits for each groundwater allocation zone. The allocation limit is a calculation of the amount of water that can be abstracted from an groundwater allocation zone.
Now that allocation limits are set in Schedule WQN4 it is easy to see what the limit is. The allocation limits use the same approaches as were initially included in Schedule WQN4.
The way groundwater is managed in any location is dependent on the level of technical information known about the aquifer. At the simplest level groundwater is allocated up to 15% of the annual rainfall, which represents 50% of rainfall recharge (rainfall actually soaking through to the groundwater) in an average year. This establishes the groundwater allocation limit.
In many zones a more refined method is used to set the allocation limit, whereby up to 50% of the land-based recharge (ie rainfall and irrigation), plus any recharge from intermittently flowing streams, can be allocated for use.
This is a trigger level where further water allocation needs to be based on greater knowledge of the aquifer. Applying this approach across the region produces three different colour categories that can apply to a groundwater allocation zone. The different categories reflect the extent to which water has been allocated from the zone.
A red zone is an area that has reached and/or exceeded this trigger level. A yellow zone is an area where groundwater allocation is within 80% of this level. A white zone is an area where groundwater allocation is less than 80% of this level.
Being in a red zone does not mean there is no more groundwater available. It means that Environment Canterbury needs considerably more technical information to be confident that allocating more groundwater will not compromise environmental standards or the reliability of supply of existing groundwater users.
Yes it can change, but it can only change by way of a plan change or variation. The process for this is set out in Schedule 1 of the RMA. This will involve consultation with interested and affected parties, and there will be an opportunity for making submissions and for hearings.
The general approach is not expected to change but because it is adaptive, as technical information and understanding of aquifer allocation limits develops, some changes may be required to take that new information into account. As the groundwater resource is better understood, it is anticipated that allocation limits will be brought into Schedule WQN3 of the NRRP. When this happens and is operative taking water in excess of these limits will be prohibited.
We have maps showing the boundaries (geological, roads and rivers) of the groundwater zones on our website or you can phone Customer Services 0800 EC INFO 0800 32 4636 and they will clarify which zone a bore is in.
If you have a consent for groundwater abstraction in one of the red or yellow zones you may continue to exercise your consent as per the terms and conditions of consent. If the zone is red there may be no, or few, other consents issued, giving you reasonable assurance of ongoing reliable supply. Because this approach is limiting the total amount of water that can be allocated you may be required by Environment Canterbury to provide more information on your water usage in the future. Technical assessment of existing consents will be undertaken over the next few years to determine the extent to which additional water usage monitoring will be needed.
Water meters will increasingly be essential for many reasons. We will all benefit from knowing how much water can safely be abstracted from aquifers. To enable adequate management of an aquifer we need to know how much water is going into and being abstracted from the system. The more we know about inflows and outflows the more we can reliably ensure that environmental requirements are met and enable abstractors to have a fair system of access to the available water.
As an abstractor accurate knowledge of water use can be very useful. Knowing how much water is used can help in improving production, save in pump operation costs and also identify system performance problems. In one case, the cost of water and soil monitoring systems was recovered against the cost of pumping after using these tools only two times to determine there was not the need to irrigate.
Not necessarily, unless your bore is just outside a yellow or red zone and produces enough water for irrigation. In such cases any application for a groundwater permit should include comment on cumulative effects within the nearest zone.
People wanting a groundwater permit in white zones or others areas not in or near a zone, will still have to provide an appropriately detailed assessment of environmental effects with their application and this should include the justification for the proposed seasonal or annual total abstraction volumes.
People applying for a consent for groundwater from a red zone will be informed that their application may be declined unless they can demonstrate that sufficient groundwater is available, and that the effects of their proposed abstraction are acceptable under all the requirements of the Resource Management Act.
Each case will be judged on its merits, based on knowledge available at the time. The new process simply makes it clearer at the outset that some aquifers are already highly allocated and there may be limited water available for new applicants.
Permitted activities for taking groundwater are not included in the effective allocation count, and are not restricted by the allocation limits.
No, the Resource Management Act provides for Environment Canterbury to recover its costs of processing a resource consent even if an applicant withdraws. The information on this web site and available from Environment Canterbury via Customer services is intended to help make sure people understand the status of each groundwater zone before any commitment is made to install a bore or seek consent to take groundwater.
Your application will still be judged on its merits. You will be informed if any more information is required in support of your application. You also have the opportunity to commission further investigations to assess the effects of a specific abstraction in a zone that may be under pressure.
As an existing user of the groundwater, this factor will be taken into account in reassessing your new application. Now that the Natural Resources Regional Plan has been notified, policies related to the priority for existing users have some legal status and will be taken into account when replacement consents are considered. Your current consent is already being counted in assessing the current effective allocation. It is intended that your consent will remain within the allocation block, but your application will be subject to a reasonable use test.
No. It is made very clear in the brochure that you would have received: getting a bore permit is no guarantee that a groundwater permit will follow. It is recommended that you check on the allocation status of the zone before deciding to commission a bore.
The precautionary approach Environment Canterbury is taking is to endeavour to manage groundwater abstraction to 50% of land-based recharge (ie from rainfall and irrigation) plus or minus estimates of net stream recharge. Where not enough information is available to assess the land-based recharge, an estimate is based on 15% of average annual rainfall that falls in the zone.
As more information about an aquifer zone becomes available, it will be possible to improve the approach taken via plan changes or variations. In some areas assessments will be based on more detailed studies of aquifer dynamics. This will generally involve modelling studies as have been undertaken for the Christchurch-West Melton area. This will be incorporated into Schedule WQN3 of the NRRP.
In any of these cases an allocation regime will be established. This will set an allocation limit. The approach taken in Schedule WQN4 of the NRRP is to set an annual volume of water as the allocation limit. (With more understanding of the groundwater resource there may be other or additional ways to manage the groundwater allocation regimes and these will be included in the Schedule WQN3 approach.)
As water is allocated from the groundwater allocation zone a running total of the effective allocation is kept. When the cumulative effective allocation is equal to, or in excess of, the allocation limit the groundwater allocation zone is full and the zone is referred to as a "red" zone.
No, generally it is less than the annual volume. Policy WQN14(6) (amended by Variation 4) indicates how the effective allocation is to be determined for different activities. For irrigation takes it is 90% of the annual volume on the consent, or where there is no annual volume set, the amount determined using Schedule WQN9 or other method. For other uses, such as community drinking supply, it is 100% of the annual volume on the consent, or where there is no annual volume set, the amount determined by alternatives set out in the Policy.
The reason for adjusting the annual volume on the consent is to estimate what is likely to be taken and used on average. The allocation limits are derived using average annual recharge estimates and the effective allocation is an estimate of the average annual demand.
In December 2004 it was determined that based on estimates of land-based recharge, more water was available to be allocated in 10 zones. Limits will continue to increase or decrease as current information is refined, as new information becomes available, and as further models are developed. The new framework allows for this flexibility so that we can respond to areas which may be nearing their limits or expand some limits if information shows that they can be raised.
There remains opportunity for anyone to demonstrate that there is more water available from an allocation zone through the resource consent application process. But while it may be possible to demonstrate that there is water available in some years, this may not provide adequate reliability for the intended use.
The framework is part of the proposed NRRP which must be taken into account when decisions are made on consent applications.
You will not be warned. The information summarized in the reports may change from time to time as more information is obtained - the groundwater allocation framework has been designed to accommodate changes in allocation limit estimates. However, Environment Canterbury will periodically publish information on our website on the state of groundwater resources, and major changes may be announced through the media. Environmental consultants will also have access to up-to-date information.
Yes. At this stage, all aquifers within the geographical borders are within the zones and are part of that zone's groundwater allocation block. In time some aquifers may be managed separately but they will still be subject to allocation limits.
See our Canterbury groundwater allocation table.
Yes, domestic and stock water uses are permitted activities and do not require groundwater take consents, just a consent to drill the well. But takes for domestic and stockwater uses are limited. If more is to be taken than the permitted activity allows consent will be required and effects on the allocation regime and on the environment will be considered at the time.
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