The benefits of measuring your water take
In New Zealand, fresh water is managed under the Resource Management Act 1991. To protect the environment, water users generally have to apply for resource consents to take fresh water from its source.
There are around 20,000 consented water takes in New Zealand. About three-quarters are for irrigation – most of the other consents are for community water supplies and industry. About one-third of all consented takes (and about one-third of the total volume allocated by consent) is currently measured.
Water take data is critical information for those managing the resource at the local level (such as a collective of irrigators), as well as those working at a regional or national level. Information obtained from measuring water takes can be used to support many aspects of water resource management, including:
- keeping track of and making efficient use of allocated water
- collectively managing takes by groups of water users
- monitoring compliance with resource consent conditions
- understanding water resources and ecosystem responses
- planning for future economic growth for communities.
Water measuring can also help you understand:
- how efficiently you are using water and how to make better use of it
- if you are complying with your consent conditions
- what you are paying for water delivery (eg, pumping costs)
- if your water delivery system is working properly (eg, by finding leaks)
- the availability of any unused allocated water, enabling you to consider options for using that water (eg, to expand irrigable area).
Who the regulations apply to*
The Resource Management (Measurement and Reporting of Water Takes) Regulations 2010 apply to resource consents allowing fresh water to be taken at a rate of 5 litres per second or more.
The regulations do not apply to water takes that do not need a consent, or to consented takes:
- allowing less than 5 litres per second to be taken, or
- for geothermal or coastal water, or
- that are non-consumptive (where you return the same amount of water back to the same water body, at or near the location from which it was taken, with no significant delay).
* Includes mining privileges.
When the regulations come into effect
The regulations came into effect on 10 November 2010. If the regulations apply to you, you need to comply as soon as you take water under your consent unless:
- your consent was granted before 10 November 2010, in which case the deadline for compliance depends on your allowed rate of take:
- 20 litres per second or more: by 10 November 2012
- 10 litres per second up to 20 litres per second: by 10 November 2014
- 5 litres per second up to 10 litres per second: by 10 November 2016
- your consent was granted on or after 10 November 2010 to renew a previous consent for the same activity. Your compliance deadline is 10 November 2012, 2014 or 2016 (depending on your rate of take as described above), or as soon as you take water under your consent – whichever is the later date.
Measuring and reporting requirements
If the regulations apply, you need to measure and keep records of your water take. You must:
- take continuous measurements
- keep daily records of cubic metres taken (regional councils may give written approval for weekly records)
- keep records specifying ‘zero’ when no water is taken
- keep records in an auditable format
- use a water measuring device or system that is:
- suited to the qualities of water it is measuring (eg, its sediment content)
- sealed and tamper-proof
- installed where water is taken (regional councils may give written approval for installation at an alternative location)
- accurate to within plus or minus 5 per cent for water taken by a full (pressurised) pipe, or plus or minus 10 per cent for takes by open channels or partially full pipes
- verified as accurate by a person who is qualified (in your regional council’s opinion). Verification is required initially, and then every five years
- able to provide data in a form suitable for electronic storage.
You must also provide annual records to your regional council. Even if your regional council requires records by a different date or covering a different period (eg, by 31 January for the previous calendar year), you must also provide annual records:
- each year of your consent
- covering all water taken from 1 July – 30 June
- in writing (or electronically if requested by your regional council) within one month after this period.
How the regulations will work
The requirements will come into effect automatically.
This means that:
- if you already hold a consent that is covered by the regulations, you will not need to go through a consent review process before the regulations will apply to you
- if you are applying for a consent that would be covered by the regulations, they will apply whether or not they are written into your consent conditions.
Councils can add additional or more stringent requirements
The regulations set bottom-line requirements. This means they:
- override more lenient requirements on affected consents (from the date the regulations come into effect on that consent)
- allow regional councils to impose and enforce additional or more stringent requirements (such as telemetering and/or the installation and use of a datalogger).
Councils can require measurement and reporting for other takes
Regional councils are still able to impose measuring or reporting requirements on water takes not covered by the regulations (such as consented takes for less than 5 litres per second, or takes considered to be non-consumptive under the regulations).
What do I do now?
Please read your water take consent conditions to determine your allowed rate of take. You need to know your allowed rate of take to see if you are covered by the regulations and the date by which you must comply.
If the regulations apply, check your consent conditions to see whether your current obligations are more lenient, exactly the same, or more stringent than each of the requirements in the regulations.
If in doubt, contact your regional council – it is responsible for enforcing the regulations.
Having established your compliance obligations, consider what practical steps you may need to take – such as installing a new water measuring device or system, or upgrading your existing equipment. Your regional council can direct you to useful guidance material, including information on selecting a water meter, and the contact details of qualified installers and verifiers.
We recommend you make any necessary changes well in advance of the final date for compliance.