Water users face further rationing

SARAH DUNN
Last updated 13:00 27/02/2014
Courtney Lott
MARTIN DE RUYTER/FAIRFAX NZ
HOPING FOR RAIN: Appleby dairy farmer Andrew Ford with daughter Abigail Ford, 20 months, is pleased water restrictions were not introduced in November.

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Further water rationing measures have been introduced in Tasman district, but farmers and market gardeners are thankful that the drought did not hit earlier in the season.

Dry Weather Taskforce convenor Dennis Bush-King announced yesterday that people with consents to take water from the Waimea Plains' Hope aquifer and lower confined aquifer would have to cut their authorised weekly use by 20 per cent from Monday.

Those taking water from the upper catchments, reservoir, Waimea West, Golden Hills, Delta and upper confined aquifer, who have already cut their weekly use by 20 per cent, will have to reduce it by an additional 15 per cent.

"The absence of any serious rain since late January means things are dry, and river and groundwater levels continue to drop across the district," Mr Bush-King said.

"While we can continue to be thankful [that] the onset of rationing was later than might otherwise have been expected, groundwater decline is increasing sharply at a time when water for crops is still needed.

"Rain is predicted in 10 days' time, but it may not be enough to prevent further restrictions."

Appleby dairy farmer Andrew Ford said he used several irrigation methods to keep grass growing, and would have to run them all for shorter amounts of time to cut 35 per cent off his authorised weekly allocation.

The change would not make much impact at this stage, he said, but it could affect his operation more seriously if the dry conditions continued.

"I guess we'll pretty much just take what comes, and we'll do what we can with what we've got."

Mr Ford said that in a normal year, he would continue milking his 210 cows until the end of May. He was pleased that restrictions were not introduced in November, as he could have ended up without any water allocation by the end of summer.

He said it looked as though farmers would receive a good milk payout this year, and it had also been a productive season for making supplementary feeds such as silage and baleage.

Appleby Fresh owner Mark O'Connor said he was beginning to plant winter crops, with vegetables such as cabbage and cauliflower now in the ground. The 35 per cent cut to his water allocation would not badly affect his operation, unless the dry weather went on for a long time. "We're comfortable at the moment."

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