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Fresh Water Takes – Do I need a Consent?

There are three types of water takes – Groundwater, surface water and geothermal water:

Generally speaking, if you take water out of a stream, river, lake or spring-fed pond then it’s classified as SURFACE WATER.
If you take water out of a bore it’s GROUDNWATER.
If the water is hotter than 30°c then it’s classified as GEOTHERMAL WATER.

Do you need to have a resource consent to take groundwater or surface water?

It depends on what you are using the water for, the volume of water needed and the region where you are located.

When an activity doesn’t require a resource consent it is referred to as a permitted activity. There are rules in the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) and regional plans that allow for some water to be taken as a permitted activity. Regional plans can be found on your council’s website.

For example, for water takes in the Bay of Plenty Region, the RMA and the Bay of Plenty Regional Natural Resource Plan (RNRP) allow for the following:

Resource Management Act:

  • Section 14(3)(b): Water can be taken for an individual’s reasonable domestic needs or the reasonable needs of a person’s animals for drinking water as long as it does not, or is not likely to, have an adverse effect on the environment.

Bay of Plenty Regional Natural Resources Plan:

  • Rule 38: Permits the take and use of groundwater provided the temperature of the water does not exceed 30 degrees Celsius, or the daily volume does not exceed 35 cubic metres per day per property. A geothermal groundwater take will always require a resource consent regardless of the daily volume required.
  • Rule 41: Permits the take and use of surface water provided the temperature of the water does not exceed 30 degrees Celsius, or the daily volume does not exceed 15 cubic metres per day per property. To be a permitted activity under this rule, water cannot be taken from a wetland and there are other conditions that must be complied regarding the rate of take, the instream minimum flow requirement and the intake screen.

In the Bay of Plenty you will need a consent if:

  • Your take and use of water is not a permitted activity mentioned above – for example, water for irrigation or frost protection of an orchard or for pasture irrigation, or wash down water at a dairy shed
  • You need more water than the limits mentioned above
  • Any geothermal water use (above 30oC) regardless of how much water you take

In addition, natural inland wetlands need to be considered under the Resource Management (National Environmental Standards for Freshwater) Regulations 2020. If your take is within a natural inland wetland this is likely to be a prohibited activity and if it is not in the wetland but within 100 metres of it, it may require a consent.

If you’re not sure whether the fresh water you want to take is a permitted activity or if it requires a consent, it is recommended that you contact your regional council or seek professional advice.