2015 – A regional study of water storage options in the Wairarapa

Michael Bassett-Foss , David Bouma , Dewi Knappstein

The Wairarapa Water Use Project (WWUP) in the southern North Island, New Zealand, is investigating new water storage schemes involving large dams that will allow the community to make use of the water resources that are currently available, but not necessarily available at the time they are needed. It is estimated that the 12,000 hectares currently irrigated in the Wairarapa could be increased to about 42,000 hectares depending on actual demand. The WWUP provides for a range of possible needs, such as supply of new areas of irrigation, increased reliability for existing irrigation and frost fighting, environmental augmentation of low summer river flows, environmental flushing flows, stock drinking water, power generation, municipal water supply, and recreational use.
WWUP objectives include early engagement of stakeholders, early integration of financial, social, cultural and environmental factors in decision-making, management of uncertainty associated with the preliminary level of investigation and evolving regulatory framework, development of an equitable framework for efficiently comparing options, and balancing long and short-term considerations.
A large number of dam options were identified, storing 3 to 80 million m3 of water, and progressively narrowed to a shortlist of 2 sites through a complex process of concept development, desktop studies, site visits, hydrological analyses, cost estimates and multi-criteria analyses.
The WWUP demonstrates how sustainable new major water storage schemes can be promoted in a highly regulated environment of a developed nation.
Keywords: Dams, water storage, stakeholder engagement, environment, water allocation, multi-criteria analysis

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