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Water Use

Bay of Plenty Regional Council monitors and manages water use in the Bay of Plenty to make sure water supplies do not get too low.  If you wish to use significant amounts of water you may need to apply for a resource consent. Make sure you check with the Council that you are following regulations correctly for all water use.

Water allocation

Resource consents allow for groundwater or surface water to be allocated amongst different users. Water take consents can be issued for any purpose but will only be granted if the water use is efficient and will not have a significant environmental impact.

Regional Council is required by law to accept and process a complete consent application for any kind of water use. Each consent application is assessed and considered on a case-by-case, and first in-first served basis.

We currently manage more than 1300 active resource consents to take and use water in the Bay of Plenty (unless it is a prohibited activity). These include for town drinking water, electricity supply or industrial use, horticulture, and agriculture. Sixty-seven consents are held for local water supply, seven are held by water bottling companies. 

A map of all known wells and bores in the Bay of Plenty is available here>>.

A map of all current resource consents is available here>>. The blue dots show water take consents and the pink dots show water use consents, you can click on the dot for consent details.

Our Assessment of Water Availability and Estimates of Current Allocation Levels, October 2016 (pdf.8.46 MB) report gives an overview of how much groundwater and surface water is currently allocated or available for use in the Bay of Plenty.

Irrigation NZ have issued some advice for irrigators to help them manage their water allocation during dry conditions. See here >>

Groundwater allocation


Groundwater is all the water contained below the earth’s surface. It comes from rainfall and river water that percolates through the ground and accumulates in underground aquifers. 

Regional Council’s Natural Resources Regional Plan and Proposed Plan Change 9 inform water allocation in the region. For groundwater the allocation limit is based on 35% of average aquifer recharge.

Regional Council also has a scientific monitoring and modelling programme in place to increase our understanding of recharge rates, water use impacts and surface water connections in the region's aquifers. Investigations into specific aquifers are carried out as part of our resource consent process.

Our groundwater monitoring network currently includes 54 water level monitoring bores and 22 bores that we collect water quality data from. We monitor rainfall and river water entering and leaving the aquifers, and people’s consented use of groundwater and surface water.

Surface water allocation

Surface water is all the water we can see including: rivers, streams, lakes, drains, ponds, springs, and wetlands. The diagram below shows how surface water (from rivers or streams) is allocated for use.


Our scientists identify a low flow level for each waterway, called Q5. It’s a seven-day average level that’s calculated from continuous monitoring and manual sampling data. There’s a 20 percent likelihood of Q5 levels occurring in any one year.

Generally ninety percent of that low flow (Q5) average is protected to support natural processes, leaving 10 percent of that amount available for people to use. High flows, above average levels may also be available for people to take.

surfacewater allocation

Water take consents

An approved resource consent will identify a maximum amount of water the consent holder may take. This is usually described as a daily limit in m3, and often we will define a maximum pumping or abstraction rate as well.  The amount of water the consent holder can take will depend on a few different factors including:

  • How many other water users there are in the source catchment
  • The efficiency of the proposed water use relative to the activity it will be taken for
  • The type of water body water is to be taken from
  • Other uses of the source water body such as recreational and cultural purposes
  • The health of the water body you wish to take water from (taking water can sometimes cause water quality issues due to reduced water levels or flow rates)
  • The water levels in the source catchment

All new consent holders are required to accurately measure and report on their actual water use at least annually. Water metering regulations apply to many (but not all) older water use consents. See information about water metering and how to submit water use data.


Water catchments

CatchmentA catchment is an area of land where all the surface water (such as rivers, lakes and streams) and groundwater, all flow to one particular watercourse like a major river.

An example of a catchment is the Kaikokopu-Pokopoko-Wharere catchment near Matata (pictured).

All the surface water and groundwater is contained by topography (hills, gullies, ridges, plains etc) so all water flows into the highlighted basin or 'catchment'.

Read more about the Resource Consent Process



Two steps to improved water rules

Council is taking a two-step approach to improving the rules for water quality and quantity management in the region by:

  1. Strengthening water allocation limits through a Region-wide Water Quantity Plan change. Public submissions were received in December 2016. Hearings are scheduled for March 2018 and the new rules may be operative by mid 2018.
  2. Working with communities to set limits at a localised level to meet water quality and quantity targets for specific areas and waterways (Freshwater Management Units).  This is underway in the Kaituna Maketū, Pongakawa Waitahanui and Rangitāiki catchments. It will roll out to other parts of the region in the coming years.

This is part of our work to implement central government’s National Policy Statement for Freshwater