Billions of litres illegally taken from Canterbury's waterways.

Forest & Bird has revealed that the total amount of water officially logged as having been taken illegally from Canterbury’s waterways in a single season totals at least 2.3 billion litres.

This new information comes the same week that Forest & Bird detailed how hundreds of farmers were caught taking water illegally from Canterbury's rivers, or not measuring how much water they were taking.

“We now know that at least 2.3 billion litres was taken illegally in one year - the equivalent of five years of Christchurch residents’ drinking water,” says Forest & Bird’s Advocacy Manager Kevin Hackwell.

“The actual quantity taken illegally is likely to be much higher as there were many cases where water meters did not record how much was taken. Without a functioning meter, irrigators are free to take as much water from the local rivers and aquifers as they like without anyone knowing," says Mr Hackwell.

"The Council's resource management advisor, Richard Purdon, has confirmed that only 10 per cent of the 376 breaches were due to inaccuracies in the data."

“Despite at least 2.3 billion litres of water being illegally taken, and nearly 400 irrigation related serious non-compliances, ECan continues to downplay the issue saying it is only a few farmers, a relatively small amount of water and that when told to comply, farmers do.

“While ECan has indicated that they are likely to take some prosecutions in the future, they have also been at pains to state that they don’t believe there is massive water crime in Canterbury,” says Mr Hackwell.

“ECan’s data tells the true story - hundreds of farmers are seriously breaching their consents including illegally taking billions of litres of Canterbury’s precious water.

“There is little hope that Canterbury’s water crisis will be addressed while ECan continues to make excuses for failing to perform a critical part of its job. If the Commissioners and staff at ECan think the job is too hard they should step aside and make room for someone who can do the job” says Mr Hackwell.

The total figure calculated by Forest & Bird includes only the illegally taken water that was able to be determined from figures obtained from ECan. It does not include water taken where extraction data provided by ECan was incomplete, or where data provided by the consent holder was incomplete or non-existent. This means it is likely significant illegal takes remain uncounted.

See calculations here. 
Total litres logged as taken illegally: 2,265,944,252 litres (2.265 billion litres)

Note: Calculation of drinking water is based on a generous 3l per person, per day.