by Chris Tobin
Dairy farmer Stu Weir has drilled a well on his property, meaning less water will be extracted from Saltwater Creek in the future.
Mr Weir farms alongside the creek and said it remained to be seen what effect his well would have on water levels.
“I suspect evaporation and lack of water over the summer will continue, but at least we’ll be clear of it and not seen as taking water when the public have got a right to use it as well.”
Saltwater Creek is used by the Timaru Rowing Club and walkways along the banks have made it a popular recreation area on the edge of the city.
The well has a depth of 170m.
“We’re only 50m above sea level here, so that’s what we’ve got to give us a good supply.
“It was very expensive, costing us $900 a metre [$153,000 in total] to do it.
“I’m not happy spending that money but we’re hoping to have a good supply of water and not be pressured to turn off when the water is needed.”
Mr Weir’s family has irrigated with water from the creek since 1969.
“We want a good, reliable source of water and with modern times we’ve increased our irrigation area.”
He said their water take had not increased in 20 years.
“We’re still under the microscope because we’re a farm operating on the edge of town,” Mr Weir said.
“When the level of the creek drops in summer, which it always does because it’s spring fed and a lowland drainage creek, it’s unreliable for irrigation.”
While he still had resource consent to take water from the creek until 2025 he decided to be proactive and approached Environment Canterbury about putting in a well.
“We’re consented to take 26 litres a second but currently we only use 20 litres a second.”
The new well could provide 30 litres of water a second.
“We’re going through the consent process at the moment. Once consented, we’ve got to put in infrastructure.”
He hoped resource consent would be obtained in the next few months but the well would not be operational this summer.
Environment Canterbury community engagement co-ordinator Rhys Taylor said if Mr Weir was successful in getting a consent changed from surface to groundwater and it was affordable, this would significantly reduce the water take from the creek.
“It is a positive move and there are competing needs for the water, especially with the rowing club and their wish for more water.”
Timaru Rowing Club member Glen Patterson said the club did not see the water take from the creek as being a major contributor to the low levels.
Last summer, the water levels were too low for rowing by mid-January and rowers had to travel to Lakes Opuha and Ruataniwha for training, the trips costing one school $7000.
A build-up of silt in the lower part of the creek had been a problem as had holes for fish in a weir at the seaward end of the creek, which let out too much water.
The rowing club had been in protracted talks with Environment Canterbury and the club hoped the weir could be redesigned to retain more water.
“Unfortunately, the wheels do not move as fast as they should,” Mr Patterson said.
Rowers having to travel so much was affecting club membership numbers.
“In the last three seasons membership has dropped from 100 down to 65.”