13 Mar 2013

Water shortages loom in south

1:53 pm on 13 March 2013

The south of the South Island is drying off quickly, despite receiving plenty of rain in January and February.

Water take limits have come into force in Southland as river flows drop.

Southland Regional Council says 45 farms and other businesses have had to stop taking water for irrigation and other uses as streams and rivers fall below limits set in their resource consents.

Ten waterways including the Mataura, Waikaia and Oreti Rivers are affected.

Irrigation restrictions have also come into force in parts of Otago.

A Dunedin hydrological consultant, Dave Stewart of Rain Effects, says the benefits of heavy rain early in February have quickly disappeared.

He says no catchments have been cut off from irrigation yet, so the situation is not as bad as it has been in the past.

Mr Stewart says it's fortunate there has not been a lot of wind, or the situation would have rapidly developed into the drought that is being felt in the North Island.

He says it is at the stage now where there are issues with grass burning off and if people aren't irrigating they are starting to struggle.

Mr Stewart says farmers may have to start looking at whether to reduce stock or start using supplementary feed.