InfoSheet: Why We are Pursuing the Waimea Community Dam as a Solution

A Council’s job is to do the best it can for the communities it serves and in our case it is to plan for the future as well as to fix our historic undersupply of water.

Since the drought of 2001 we’ve been trying to find a way to make sure there will be enough water to go around in the future.

  • We’ve known since 1985 that we’ve been using more water on the Waimea Plains than the river can provide. Water has been rationed for years but it is also known that rationing is not enough in the long term.
  • Climate change is going to cause slightly more rainfall, in heavier bursts, but it is also tipped to double the time we spend in drought every year. Rising sea level means that aquifers are also more at risk from saltwater contamination.
  • The Council has worked with iwi, the Department of Conservation, Fish and Game, and irrigators to investigate the water problem.
  • After 12 years of study, submissions, public meetings, and proposals, independent and expert research shows the best solution is the Waimea Community Dam and the Waimea Water Augmentation project.
  • The proposed dam provides a secure water supply and provides for increasing demand.
  • Many options have been considered from piping water from lake Rotoiti, river weirs, on-site dams, through to smaller dams and other locations. The Waimea Community Dam has wider benefits compared to any other irrigation scheme providing for the environmental needs of the river, current and future urban and commercial needs and irrigation needs.
  • The proposal is for nature to deliver the water via aquifers rather than a system of pipes or land-based channels. The Dam is located in the Upper Lee Valley and has gained a resource consent. Council is negotiating with landowners to purchase the land and access.
  • Without the dam, the NZIER forecasts the economic cost to our region to be in the magnitude of $71m and $89m a year.
  • Without the dam, we still won’t be able to issue new water permits. Without the dam water consent allocations will need to be cut by 30-70 per cent.
  • The Council is committed to providing a secure water solution for the Waimea basin. We are continuing to work with potential funding partners and the Waimea Community Dam Ltd to secure the funds needed to make this project happen.
  • We are also seeking greater certainty about the cost of the Dam through a tender process in order to have a fully informed discussion with Tasman residents. 
  • The dam, 52m high holding 13.4 million cubic metres of water, is big enough to meet not just the current shortfall, but also demand for the next 100 years.

Location of Proposed Dam

 location map proposedwaimea community dam