District Council operations and maintenance engineer Stephen Rooney
said there had been no rain in the district in the past week, with
the exception of a small amount on the lower east coast.
substantial rain was received soon, Marlborough would experience a
season on par with the big droughts of 1973, 1998 and 2001, Rooney
only four days of the year remaining, Blenheim looks very likely to
surpass its lowest ever rainfall of 398 millilitres recorded in
continued dry stretch would see Marlborough record the driest year
since records began in 1930.
was still the chance of a brief period of rain late on Wednesday, but
this was not expected to be significant, he said.
Southern Valleys Irrigation Scheme, which fed water from the Wairau
River to about 4500 hectares of mostly vineyard land south of
Renwick, was predicted to be shut off before the weekend, Rooney
shut off was predicted after the Wairau River average flow dropped to
10 cubic metres per second on Sunday.
rainfall to increase river flows the scheme will be shut off in the
next couple of days, probably before the weekend," he said.
Estate winery manager and winemaker Clive Jones said the first shut
off of the summer was not a surprise.
first water shut off is not major. People shouldn't panic. If it
stays off for a week then it becomes critical. If we don't get
further rain it will be significant."
was too early to be talking of vineyards trucking in water, he said.
rain in the headwaters of the Wairau River in the West Coast would be
enough to replenish water in Blenheim, he said.
had one vineyard property on the irrigation scheme but it had back-up
last year everyone predicted it was going to be another dry season.
The shut off is part and parcel of the business."
those that had no back-up, the impact on vines was a case-by-case
depending on the soil type, Jones said.
reality is vines need water.
are currently sizing up. If water is restricted they may not get as
viticulturist Jeremy Hyland said they were lucky to have just 30
hectares of grapes using the Southern Valleys Irrigation scheme.
had a back-up storage dam providing a couple of weeks worth of water
for irrigation if the scheme was shut off.
some they won't have back-up plans. It's bad timing.
has been so dry everything is dying off anyway."
would hit their critical growth phase in a month when they would need
the largest amount of water, Hyland said.
used water when ripening to transport nutrients and maintain the
strength of the plant, he said.
vines come under stress prior to that it is going to be very hard."
flows had dropped steadily over the past week. Waihopai class B takes
were now unavailable, and it was likely that Awatere B, Wairau B,
Waihopai A, and Rai restrictions would come into force in the next
five to 10 days, Rooney said.
Renwick water users in the urban network had staved off water
restrictions in the township until the New Year.
water engineers cut back the output from the Renwick bore field on
Christmas Eve, reducing it by 4 litres per second to ensure the water
level remained above the pumps.
reduced overall output to 42 litres per second but because Renwick
residents were holding their demand below 2500 cubic metres per day.
This output was enough to meet demand.
this, and their reduced water use in the early evening, continues
restrictions can be delayed until early in the New Year."
Wairau aquifer level was still dropping but its rate of decline
appeared to have slowed, Rooney said.
good rainfall is still needed to stave off the restrictions that are
likely to be required in January."
residents were urged to irrigate gardens in the early morning and
late evening to avoid high rates of evaporation and water lost in the
threatens grape harvest
winemaker in Marlborough says extremely dry weather is already taking
its toll on vineyards in the region.
sun rises over the vineyards of Waikakaho Valley in Marlborough -
Photo: RNZ / Tracy Neal