Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Waimea Community Dam


PHOTO: The first dispersing fixed cone valve releasing water from Te Kurawai o Pūhanga, the reservoir behind the Waimea Community Dam. 


Waimea Water


Sunday 3 March 2024

Waimea Water Ltd (WWL) has commenced releasing water from the reservoir to support relief from the worsening drought as the dry and warm summer conditions continue.

On Saturday 2 March 2024, water from the reservoir was released through the smaller of three permanent dispersing valves constructed to release water from the reservoir in dry periods.

Te Kurawai o Pūhanga, the reservoir behind the Waimea Community Dam, reached its full capacity and the spillway commenced flowing on Sunday 21 January 2024. However, over recent weeks, and as the work to transition to the permanent pipes was completed, the lack of rainfall saw the water flowing into the reservoir and out over the spillway reduce significantly.


WWL CEO Mike Scott said that he expects the two larger dispersing valves will be operational within the next two weeks, but in the meantime, the completed small valve has been made operational ahead of the other two.


“The smaller fixed cone valve has increased flow into the Lee River at a time when it is severely needed,” Scott said. “We are pleased to be able to lift the river flow on Saturday and I thank our commissioning engineers, the contractors and wider team for getting this valve operational to release water.” 


Scott advised that release from the reservoir will be curtailed for periods over the next few days as some works are completed, but with the intention of running the valve at close to capacity outside of work needs and hours. 


“Once the other two dispersing valves are operational and their performance verified, the dam will be fully commissioned. Commissioning is scheduled for later in March,” he said.


Waimea Irrigators Ltd Chairperson Murray King said irrigators had been looking forward to this day all summer.


“It is a great feeling to know that Waimea Water can now control the release of water from the reservoir, when it is needed, and it is certainly needed now. The current dry situation and water restrictions show how much the community needs the dam,” King said.  


Tasman Mayor Tim King said it is ‘bloody great’ to see the water flowing from the dam.

“It has been a quarter of a century in the making, but this weekend we have an operational dam to supply the region with much needed water supply for the next 100 years,” King said. “We will be keeping an eye on river levels over the next few days, and are certainly hoping this release will stave off any further water restrictions.”


Water released from the Waimea Community Dam complements the natural system by supplementing low river flows to assist recharge of the Waimea aquifers. Assisted recharge of the aquifers maintain water levels for extraction and reduce the risk of saltwater intrusion from the coast. Maintaining higher river flows also improves river health. 

The flow from the dam will support both horticulture and the domestic water wells near Appleby that supply water to the combined Richmond / Nelson water network. Māpua, Ruby Bay, Brightwater and Wakefield also use bores in the Waimea Plains, benefitting from the recharged aquifers. 

The size of the reservoir mitigates the impact of a drought greater than a 1:50 year event.



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