Waimakariri Irrigation Scheme – Irrigation Water Management


The problem: Rainfall in many irrigated regions of NZ is uniformly distributed (in time), and theoretically, irrigations can be (or should be) scheduled around rainfall. However, farmers seldom schedule irrigations around rainfall, due the absence of accessible, reliable weather forecast, and the inability to respond to changes in (forecast) weather conditions. Often irrigations are scheduled before significant rainfall events, resulting in the loss of water and nutrients via drainage.


Key stakeholders: Farmer-shareholders of the Waimakariri Irrigation Scheme (WIS), irrigation scheme manager, chairperson and board members, Environment Canterbury (ECan), local catchment/zone planning committee, MPI, MBIE.


Timeline: This project started in November 2012 and is designed to explore the innovation system around water management within an irrigation scheme, and to test a co-innovation approach in effectively using weather forecast for irrigation scheduling. As part of this project, a selection of farmers from the WIS are being provided with farm-specific observed data on current rainfall, soil moisture, soil temperature, drainage and evapotranspiration, and region-specific 2-, 6- and 15-day forecast rainfall. Since December 2012 the data are sent every day as easy-to-read graphical plots via email. Based on these daily updates farmers may make an informed decision on irrigation, as well as nutrient application. The co-innovation approach means involving a range of stakeholders in the co-development of solutions for better management of irrigation water.

As part of the project there have been individual farmer visits in January and February 2013, and again in December 2013 to discuss the application of daily data being received. Two end-of-the-irrigation season meetings took place on 31 May 2013 and 26 May 2014, at one of the participating farms. Apart from NIWA staff, these meetings attended by innovation project participant farmers, the irrigation scheme manager, the irrigation scheme chairperson, the local catchment zone committee chair and members of the zone committee, AgResearch and ECan. At the meetings, measured irrigation data from each study farm was discussed, and issues relating to responding to the data explored. The discussions covered changes in farmers’ rationale for scheduling irrigation events when rainfall forecasts are available, and constraints limiting their ability to alter decisions. These constraints could be on-farm, or off-farm (relating to the way in which the irrigation scheme is run, ability to store water on- and off-farm).


To hear more about co-innovation in this project, check out the webinar here.


To hear what two participants in the project have to say about what is happening in the project, the benefits of the project and what it is like to work in a co-innovation way, check out the videos below produced by Social Foci

Below: David Ashby, a consultant and farmer in the Waimakariri Irrigation Scheme

- YouTube- YouTube
Above: Dennis Jamieson, Project Leader - Water Infrastructure at Environment Canterbury