Working towards a future of environmental innovation, surety of supply and efficient irrigation.
Environmental stewardship is a central part of WIL’s daily operations. The company is recognised as a leader in water management, providing access to a reliable, economic and sustainable supply.
Ensuring farmers actively manage irrigation to guarantee efficient water use is central to the core of WIL. The company is working towards a future where individual farmers have the tools to apply precisely the right amount of water, at the right time. This will ultimately result in increased yields, a reduction in fertiliser use, and improved environmental outcomes.
All WIL shareholders with flows over 20 lps are required to install flowmeters and telemetry monitoring on their properties, which enables them to manage their irrigation scheduling in a more robust manner.
A new partnership with software provider Regen has equipped WIL shareholders with cutting-edge technology that enables them to make irrigation decisions backed up by hard data.
Data from weather stations, flow meters and soil moisture monitors is being used to support irrigation scheduling. Farmers are provided with daily, weekly and monthly recommendations on whether to irrigate via a mobile app.
The project, which is the only one of its kind in New Zealand, aims to ensure that all farmers within the WIL scheme will be operating at Good Management Practice (GMP) by 2020 – a benchmark used by farmers and land managers to improve production, performance and sustainable land use. GMP relating to water quality addresses issues such as nitrogen, phosphorus, sediment and faecal contaminants.
The resulting data will ultimately allow WIL shareholders to improve irrigation efficiency. The environment will benefit through less nutrient loss and farmers will save money on irrigation during the shoulder seasons.
Farm Environment Plans (FEPs)
A proactive approach has been taken to ensure WIL is making every effort to reduce or eliminate nitrate leaching through irrigation. As a result, all shareholders are required to implement Farm Environment Plans (FEPs), which are independently audited each year and results reported back to Environment Canterbury.
FEPs are unique to a property and are indicative of industry-agreed Good Management Practices (GMP) relating to water quality. They recognise and manage on-farm environmental risks associated with:
- Irrigation management
- Nutrient management
- Soils management
- Collected effluent management
- Riparian, wetland and biodiversity management
Individual shareholders are required to identify, implement, measure and audit farming actions that will result in a targeted reduction of nutrient leaching over the next five years. The purpose of these changes is to ensure that water quality outcomes are improved in the catchment.
Surety of supply
Ongoing drought-like conditions in North Canterbury have led WIL to investigate the construction of two storage ponds on Wrights Road to offer surety of supply and more efficient use of available water. If constructed, the ponds will allow shareholders to irrigate during periods when there are river restrictions.
The reliability of water in the area is a relatively low 75 percent, and the addition of storage would allow reliability to be lifted to 92 percent. WIL was granted building consent for the project in 2013, and is currently participating in an Environment Court hearing.
Surety of water supply is essential to ensure financial benefits from farming continue to spread throughout the community – from additional jobs to improved facilities, and the potential sustainable growth of more diverse and profitable crops as needs change.