BCI’s Akarana Pond – Intergenerational Infrastructure

BCI’s Akarana Pond – Intergenerational Infrastructure

The completion of the Akarana Pond adds another string to BCI’s bow – our vision being to provide positive economic, environmental and social solutions in response to the challenge of sustainably managing our community’s water resource through employing innovative technology and outstanding people.

With a strong focus on investing in high quality intergenerational infrastructure, building the 1.5 million cubic meter Akarana Storage Pond has enhanced the scheme’s operational efficiency and reduced reliance on on-demand pumping.

As well as being a feat of engineering – its sheer size is impressive and state of the art construction utilises world class concept design, control systems and civil works methods – the successful commissioning of the Akarana Pond at the end of October also demonstrates successful collaboration between BCI and local landowners, regulators, and contractors who have all worked together to achieve this.

The Akarana storage pond will enable BCI to supply the peak seasonal demand for irrigation water without requiring additional pumping capacity at Trustpower’s Highbank Pumping Station. Whereas traditionally irrigation ponds are designed to improve reliability of supply, this dam will store water for the periods of peak demand from BCI’s shareholders, thereby enabling BCI to better control the long-term costs of delivery of water. This in turn provides economic benefits to the local community.

Irrigation and the Canterbury Water Management Strategy

The Canterbury Water Management Strategy identifies infrastructure as a means to contribute to all CWMS target areas, acknowledging that well designed and executed infrastructure can address future-proofing issues such as ecosystem support in a changing climate and water quality management through enhanced reliability and distribution efficiency.

The CWMS is a collaborative process involving all councils across Canterbury, and infrastructure development is based on cooperation and coordination, while recognising the commercial goals of the parties involved. Infrastructure options are considered and progressed by Environment Canterbury with a vision for an integrated water infrastructure across Canterbury. ECan facilitates the development of a regional infrastructure solution that aligns with all the targets of the CWMS and the recommendations in the zone and regional implementation programmes.

Resource consents to construct the Akarana pond were granted by Environment Canterbury and Ashburton District Council in line with the stringent guidelines set by the Resource Management Act.

Being classified as a large dam under the NZ Society of Large Dams guidelines, the construction received intensive engineering oversight during the construction period.

Construction

Situated adjacent to the RDR North East of Methven township, the pond is formed from gravel embankments with an internal HDPE geomembrane liner on the sides and a loess/silt liner on the base of the pond.

The pond is filled by diesel generator powered transfer pumps from the RDR and is connected to the existing BCI Methven pipeline to utilise the water by gravity.

The 40 hectare site has a maximum water depth of 5 metres. Construction started in February 2018 and the project was completed over an eight month period.

The $11 million project was fully funded by BCI and its bankers. BCI shareholders will service the ongoing cost of the infrastructure.

The Pond was designed by NZ owned and operated Damwatch Engineering, and built by Canterbury based contractors, Rooney Earthmoving Limited. Carrfields Irrigation installed the connection to the RDR, and Electraserve and Rubicon Water Management undertook the electrical and control works.

BCI and AFIC Farmers lead in Environmental performance

BCI and AFIC Farmers lead in Environmental performance

BCI water users (both BCI shareholders and the Acton Farmers Irrigation Co-operative who receive water under license from BCI) are committed to playing their part in working towards the water use efficiency and nutrient management standards required under the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management, believing that a future proofed primary sector will enable even greater environmental outcomes as well as economic prosperity for Canterbury and New Zealand.

This commitment is evident in the recent Farm Environment Plan (FEP) Auditing results, with 93% of of farmers achieving either an A or a B grade. Most notable is the lift from 12% achieving an A grade in the 2015/16 results, to 35% being awarded an A Grade this round. An “A” result is achieved if a farmer is meeting Good Management Practice (GMP), a “B” is when they are on track to meeting GMP.

The result supports the BCI commitment to balancing the irrigation needs of farmers with sustaining and safeguarding the natural environment.

So what does this actually mean, and why should the Ashburton district be celebrating this result?

BCI & AFIC operate under a Nutrient Discharge Resource Consent which sets clear limits for nutrient losses. Under this consent, farmers are required to complete an annual Farm Environment Plan (FEP) and are expected to operate at Good Management Practice (GMP). An FEP is a tool to help recognise and identify environmental risks on farm, and it sets out a plan to manage and mitigate those risks and to meet GMP. It provides a bird’s eye view of the farming operation and helps farmers see exactly what they are doing well, and where they could improve. An FEP covers all aspects affecting environmental performance, for example nutrient budgeting, efficiency of water use and effluent and soil management. An FEP is a living document and is therefore updated regularly to reflect each farm’s current operation or changes to farming practices. Good Management Practice was defined following extensive collaboration between Environment Canterbury, Crown Research Institutes and several primary sector organisations, and since 2017 has been the agreed measure of optimal farm management in Canterbury, across all farming sectors.

The FEP puts a timeframe for delivery around making any improvements, thereby increasing accountability and overall results. BCI offers its shareholders ongoing training and support with the FEP process, the aim being improved environmental outcomes on farm, within the scheme as a whole and therefore the wider catchment. Frequency of audits depends on the grade achieved previously, and are undertaken by an independent auditor in accordance with Good Management Practices (GMP) guidelines relating to water quality. The resulting information is reliable nutrient loss estimates from various farming practices, which can be used for catchment modelling and regulatory purposes – the ultimate aim being all farmers operating at GMP.

A notable contributor towards the audit result performance is the willingness of shareholders to participate in the FEP program. BCI is a relatively new irrigation scheme, and the first to operate under a Nutrient Discharge Consent in 2013 amid a much wider public awareness of the environmental issues facing the primary sector. For most BCI farmers, facing the challenge of sustainably managing the community’s water resource meant that adopting an irrigated farming system should go naturally hand in hand with ‘doing the right thing’. So, while participation is a mandatory part of belonging to the scheme, the level of farmer engagement and enthusiasm for the process demonstrates a real desire to make positive changes on farm and improve environmental outcomes.

Water Agreement updated

The BCI Water Agreement has been updated to reflect the 100% irrigator ownership of the irrigation scheme.  Further changes to the agreement are required as part of the bank facility to take 100% control of the scheme, and these will be presented to shareholders in the next few months.

A copy of the new agreement is available in the recent document area of the BCI Ltd page.