PRIORITY WATER ALLOCATION
The TANK Group will be making recommendations about water allocation and the management of water supplies during drought. This discussion concerns the amount of water that can be sustainably abstracted from waterbodies and is available for allocation through resource consents.
TANK members broke into smaller groups to talk about different ways to prioritise water allocation. This conversation leads to that reasoning and criteria that helps decide how end uses might be prioritised. The Group considered reasons for end use priority that consider economic values such as productive yield, job creation or retention. Water use efficiency criteria could be developed or effective social allocation mechanisms could encourage water users to thrive or innovate, or a mix of these could be applied.
The Group first confirmed the existing high priority given to permitted water takes for domestic water supply, an individual’s animals and fire-fighting, through the Resource Management Act.
Other potential reasons for water take priority fell loosely into these categories:
- Economic value or added value for the regional economy
- Social wellbeing such as enough water for community or municipal demand
- Food production and ecological supporting systems
Discussion groups did not come to any particular agreement about end use priority. Community and municipal water supply was highly valued, along with further attention to efficient use and drought management. A potential connection was made between existing land use policy - recognising the productive nature of irrigable land on the Heretaunga Plains - and water allocation policy. This discussion will continue.
After water has been allocated via water permits, restrictions during droughts require water to be managed more carefully, and should a drought escalate.
During dry summer months, water use is under the most scrutiny. Small groups again discussed how to prioritise for water allocation. The groups listed prioritisation by efficient vs inefficient water use and some had a particular focus on urban water efficiency. Water take priority fell loosely into these categories:
- Life supporting/ welfare – people and animals
- Environmental flows
- Perennial crops
- Food processing
More discussion on irrigation and other end uses will come as TANK moves to water allocation decisions.