Amuri Irrigation is delighted that the Pahau River in the Hurunui-Waiau catchment has been recognised at the 2017 New Zealand River Awards by winning the supreme award for the Most Improved River in New Zealand.

The Awards celebrate improvement in river water quality. Each year rivers are judged on one of four key water quality indicators. This year the indicator was E.coli.  The most improved river is determined by an independent judging panel from three research institutions using statistical analysis of monitoring data from LAWA. Over the past ten years there has been a 15.6% year on year trend reduction in E.coli levels at monitoring sites along the Pahau River.

Amuri Irrigation recognises the commitment and hard work of the Pahau Enhancement Group, the wider local community and landowners in achieving this positive result.

“Amuri Irrigation is delighted that the work of our shareholders has been recognised in this way. The award acknowledges that results and improvements can be achieved when a community works together. One of the most powerful outcomes of this process from my perspective, is the fact that our local farming community has voluntarily embraced the need for change and invested in farm improvements of their own accord. We have worked in partnership with Environment Canterbury and others to make change happen, and that change has had positive results.”

“Our farmer shareholders have achieved these gains through riparian plantings, shifting to more efficient irrigation systems, fencing of rivers and the implementation of Farm Environment Plans,” said David Croft, Chair of Amuri Irrigation.

“These enhancements are making a very real difference to the water quality in the Pahau and other waterways across the Amuri Basin. However, we know the situation is not perfect and we will continue to work hard to make positive changes in the other three indicator areas. This is a long-term project, but today’s award recognises that good outcomes can be achieved. We will continue to work with our shareholders, Environment Canterbury and community to improve the water quality in our local rivers,” concluded David Croft.

In 2001, an algal bloom was found in the Hurunui River and Environment Canterbury tracked the source of the problem to the Pahau River. The Pahau Enhancement Group was formed by the farming community to address this and wider water quality concerns.  The first step for farmers was to eliminate all run-off water from farms. Some farmers chose to convert to spray irrigation while others constructed ponds to capture and recycle irrigation water.

Amuri Irrigation has built on this earlier work and established the Amuri Irrigation Environmental Collective in 2013 and it recently completed a new pipe network. Nearly 85% of shareholders can irrigate from the piped supply supporting more sustainable use of water. Only 1% of shareholders still use border dyke irrigation and have moved to more efficient spray irrigation. Border dyke irrigation was previously responsible for large amounts of wipe-off water, which is high in phosphorus, sediment and E.coli, going into the Pahau River.