Thursday, February 29, 2024

Milestone Achieved - Waimea Community Dam and Te Kurawai o Pūhanga - Just About Ready to Go



Milestone Achieved: Waimea Community Dam Nears Full Commissioning

Over two decades of meticulous planning and construction have led to a significant milestone for the Waimea Community Dam project in the Lee Valley, Tasman. A collaborative initiative between the Tasman District Council, Waimea Irrigators, and Nelson City, this groundbreaking effort aims to address the region's critical water security needs, boasting a reservoir with a staggering capacity of 13 million cubic meters of water.


Waimea Water Ltd's CEO, Mike Scott, shared his thoughts on the project's journey in 2023, expressing confidence in its progress. Dismissing concerns about unresolved issues, Scott highlighted the active resolution of early-stage challenges in the testing and preparation phases.

In the winter of 2023, Scott affirmed that the dam's performance aligned with expectations. Plans were in motion for a staged filling process, intricately monitored with engineering precision and influenced by rainfall patterns. Despite prevailing dry conditions, Scott remained optimistic, banking on sufficient rainfall as a critical factor in meeting the dam commissioning goals. However, challenges arose with the El Niño summer conditions, characterised by potentially windy and dry spells, causing delays in the dam-filling process.


Fast forward to January 21, 2024, and Te Kurawai o Pūhanga, the colossal reservoir, achieved full capacity—a monumental stride in securing the region's water future. Mike Scott extended gratitude to all involved, emphasising the collective effort leading to this critical juncture.

"Water flowing down the spillway into the river was a momentous milestone for the project, and Waimea Water Ltd. thanks all those involved in getting the project to this point.”

Now that Te Kurawai o Pūhanga is full, final engineering analysis and verification of dam performance has concluded, meaning the dam and spillway are effectively commissioned,” said Mike Scott.

With both the dam and spillway commissioned, the removal of temporary pipes and facilities, including those within the dam's culvert, marked a significant step toward connecting permanent pipework. The water that is released from the dam will run from the intake screens, filtering the reservoir water before passing through the new permanent pipework constructed through the culvert under the dam. This intricate work is part of 160 meters of new pipework designed to withstand a 1-in-1,000-year-flood.

Anticipating project completion and full commissioning soon, Scott emphasised the dam's pivotal role in managing water resources sustainably. Grateful for the community and shareholders' patience, he highlighted the positive impact on environmental protection and regional growth.

"The temporary pipes and facilities have now been removed to complete the final hook up of the permanent pipework. WWL (Waimea Water Ltd) still expects the project to be completed and commissioned in early March 2024, at which point water will be able to be released when requested," Mike Scott said.

Responding to queries, Scott clarified that independent engineers rigorously test the dam's permanent pipework and systems. Assuring the public about structural integrity, he reiterated that the dam is performing as expected, meeting stringent engineering standards.

"For commissioning, the dam’s permanent pipework and systems are tested and analysed by independent engineers. Once the performance of the systems are verified, then the dam will be fully commissioned and operational. The dam structure is performing as expected," Mike Scott said.

In a press release from Tasman District Council, Tasman Group Manager Community Infrastructure, Richard Kirby says

"There is light at the end of the tunnel regarding the Waimea Dam's ability to support water users. It is understood Waimea Water Ltd is on the verge of enabling one of three pipes currently being constructed at the foot of the dam, as opposed to relying on the spillway by the end of the week. This pipe will support a greater flow into, and increased levels in the Lee River than has been delivered in the last few weeks over the spillway.”

Richard Kirby expects other pipes will be enabled over the next few weeks.

"This does not mean the dam has been commissioned, affecting handover from the construction team, but it does mean urban and commercial water users downstream will begin to see the value brought to the area by the investment in the dam," Richard Kirby said.

As the Waimea Community Dam enters its final stages, it stands as a symbol of collaborative efforts, providing a robust solution for water security and sustainability in the Tasman region. The upcoming commissioning in early March 2024 heralds the realisation of a long-anticipated response to water challenges, laying the foundation for growth and resilience in the years ahead.


Waimea Water Ltd's CEO, Mike Scott.

Tasman District Council, Tasman Group Manager Community Infrastructure, Richard Kirby.

Waimea Community Dam spillway. PHOTO CREDIT WAIMEA WATER LTD.

Pigeon Post News, Richmond.

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