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Searching for solutions . . . The Opihi River, pictured looking west at dusk, is one of three South Canterbury rivers that are part of the Orari-Temuka-Opihi-Pareora (OTOP) zone water management project. PHOTO: GRETA YEOMAN

by Greta Yeoman

Draft solutions for the future of South Canterbury’s rivers are expected to be announced in late September, an Environment Canterbury spokesman says.

Orari-Temuka-Opihi-Pareora (Otop) zone water management committee chairman John Talbot said although the group was “still in the process” of formalising a collection of draft solutions, the ideas would be available for consultation in a couple of months.

Otop is analysing solutions for the Pareora, Opihi and Orari Rivers, looking at the water quality, what is leaching into the water from the soil and the amount of water being extracted from the rivers.

While the Otop catchment was one of 10 across Canterbury and other zones were further ahead in the process, ECan could not adapt one plan for the wider Canterbury area because of the differences in each catchment, Mr Talbot said.

For instance, the Otop zone had three hill-fed rivers, unlike other areas that had just one main river.

The catchment solutions were still undecided but would likely involve farmers altering their farming practices, especially in winter, to reduce the leaching of nitrates into the soil and then into the groundwater, he said.

Water extraction was also being analysed, including looking at storage practices so farmers would extract water when the river flow was at a higher level, so it did not affect the rivers as much when the flow was lower, he said.

The process had begun last year after a lot of data collection around the region, as water had “been an issue in Canterbury” for a long time.

Mr Talbot said discussion during meetings among the various groups had been “very civil so far”.

He encouraged South Canterbury residents to be looking out for the draft solutions for consultation, as even those without direct connection to the waterways, such as town residents, would be affected by the plan.

“The waterways have always been a recreation resource – [for] fishing and swimming.”