Water bottling - what's the story?

Note: This news article was originally published on 25 May 2017.

There has been increased interest in water bottling consents recently so we thought we’d clear up a few things.  

When someone, or a business, applies for a water take consent, Environment Canterbury's role is to look at the volume of water being taken and the environmental effect of taking and using that water.  It’s not our role to make a judgment on the merits of the purpose for which the water is sought.

Water bottling consents make up 0.007% of all water take consents in Canterbury. The remainder are a mixture of several things including, irrigation, stockwater, public supply, wildlife/fisheries management, flood control and hydroelectric power generation.

In Christchurch, there are 484 current groundwater permits. Of those 436 are consumptive (i.e. the water doesn’t go back into the aquifer).  It is worth noting that demand for water varies over a year, for example, irrigation is seasonal and rarely occurs during winter.

Groundwater is therefore typically allocated to users on an annual basis (i.e. an amount to be used over a 12-month period), however if averaged out over a year, all these consents could take up to 435,643 cubic metres per day (about 436 million litres).  Of these Christchurch consents, 25 are Christchurch City Council consents.  These make up 56% of the total water allocated in Christchurch.

The remaining 44% is used for a variety of uses, including water bottling. The consents for water bottling in Christchurch make up about 5% of the total consented water takes.  Cloud Ocean Water is about 1% of the total allocation in Christchurch.

Frequently asked questions - water bottling consents~~

How are water consents transferred when the farm/company they were granted to is sold?

Water permits can be transferred to the new owner of a site by providing a written notice of the transfer to the Council. Effectively this is simply a change in the name of the consent holder and does not require an application to the council as there is no other changes in the consent.

Can water consents be sold separately of land?

Environment Canterbury is not involved in any commercial arrangements between the holders of water permits so we don’t know the arrangements they have around selling of water consents. The RMA does enable water permits to be transferred between sites but in these situations an application must be made to the relevant regional council and the potential effects of the proposed take and use of water on the environment considered. In some parts of Canterbury, Environment Canterbury will grant a transfer between sites only if the new owner relinquishes some of the consented volume. In Selwyn/Waihora and Hinds (both of which are in mid-Canterbury), for example, this amount is 50% of the transferred volume. This means that if a seller is transferring a water consent that allows a take of an annual volume of 100,000 m3, the buyer will only receive 50,000 m3.

What happens when the land use changes?

This depends on the conditions of consent. If the use of water is tightly restricted via those conditions, a consent holder may be required to apply for a variation or replacement application.

Can ECan revoke a water consent based on what the water is being used for?

Environment Canterbury cannot revoke a water consent based on the use of the water. However if the consent was granted for one specific purpose (for example, irrigation) but was being used for another purpose then we would expect the consent holder to apply for a variation to their consent. If they didn’t then that would be a matter for investigation and possible enforcement action.

Environment Canterbury can review water permits to address adverse environmental effects that were unforeseen when the consent was originally granted, but cannot cancel those consents outright.

Consent may be revoked when the Council has been materially mislead in the application, although this is an extremely high bar to meet.

Water consents can also be cancelled by a regional council where the council can prove they haven’t been exercised for the previous five years.

If there are water restrictions for residents, does this also apply for consents such as this?

No - Restrictions and limitations on water takes are specified case-by-case in consent conditions. A particular consent might have to go on restriction of it is hydraulically connected to a waterway or if the groundwater is adaptively managed. Domestic water supplies might go on restriction when the provider initiates their management plan, but they are a separate water take so does not affect other consents.

What are the considerations ECan makes when looking into this sort of consent?

If there was an application for a new take of water, we would look at whether water is available from the allocation in the groundwater zone as set out in our regional plans, we’d also check whether the take of water affected the ability of other users nearby to take water, whether the take of water is reasonable and an efficient use of water, and whether the take is close to the coast and might result in salt water intrusion to the aquifer.

Does the Council have to approve this transfer?

The council has no choice about a transfer to another owner on the same site – this is only a change of name (s136(2)(a) RMA).

When do you have to publicly notify a consent?

When we are determining whether an application should be notified, we must consider the application against the statutory tests in the RMA.  This includes considering the significance of the environmental effects.

If the environmental effects are more than minor then it is publicly notified.  If not publicly notified, we have to consider whether there are any individual persons that may be affected to a minor level, and if so they will be served notice specifically.

If none of the statutory tests in the RMA are met, the applications are not notified.

Is a consent to drill a bore the same as a consent to take water?

A consent to drill a bore is different to a consent to take water from that bore. Drilling a bore is a necessary step before applying for consent to take water, as bores must be tested to determine how taking water from it will affect other bores in the area.

Current active water bottling consents

We are aware of the following consents that specify water bottling as an option and are active: 

Consent NumberConsent HolderLocationExpiryLimit (m3 per day)PurposeHas consent been exercised?Restrictions
CRC182813Cloud Ocean ConsentBelfast (groundwater)30/04/20324,320Commercial water bottling operationsNoNo
CRC156767Omihinui LimitedWaipara (groundwater)25/08/20342,074Commercial water bottling and irrigationYesNo
CRC171455Omihi Properties LimitedWaipara (groundwater)16/07/20254,147Commercial water bottling and irrigationNoNo
CRC146870Moore Dairy Holdings LimitedSelwyn Waimakariri (groundwater)31/07/20353,205Commercial water bottling and irrigationYesNo
CRC153253Mr T J Sycamore & Mr S J McLauchlanChertsey (groundwater)20/12/20371,400Irrigation and industrial purposesYesNo
CRC951228John Edwin Walter ShivasCust (groundwater)15/03/2030411Commercial drinking waterYesNo
CRC020875.3Mr D P Hunt, Mrs W G O'Hara-Hunt & A J Wood Trustees LimitedHatcheries Stream (surface water)31/01/2036137Irrigation, washing of vegetables and water bottlingYesYes (minimum flow restrictions on Hakataramea River)
CRC181618Coca-Cola Amatil (NZ) LimitedChristchurch West Melton (groundwater)18/03/2013250Water bottling, commercial and firefighting purposesYesNo
CRC094284Mr A J & Mrs A L DillonChristchurch West Melton (groundwater)2/03/202060Commercial bottling and domestic supplyYesNo
CRC155750Lyford Investments LimitedWandle and Lottery River (surface water)17/01/2038400Community water supply and commercial water bottlingYesYes (minimum flow restrictions on the Mason and Waiau Rivers)
CRC110864New Zealand Aqua Pura LimitedOrari Opihi (groundwater)9/06/2021303Bottling and bulk export of waterNoNo
CRC140259Aquazeal LimitedSelwyn Waimakariri (groundwater)31/01/2035250Commercial bottlingYesNo
CRC011740Frucor Beverages LtdEyre River (groundwater)17/04/2036203Fruit drink manufacture and bottling of waterYesNo
CRC180311Rapaki Natural Resources LtdChristchurch West Melton (groundwater)1/07/203214,265Commercial bottling operationsNoNo
CRC180312Rapaki Natural Resources LtdChristchurch West Melton (groundwater)31/08/2035(102,265 m3 per 7 days)Commercial bottling operationsNoNo
CRC181993Sanford LimitedChristchurch West Melton (groundwater)20/10/20365,760Industrial and commercial activities, including food, water, and beverage processing, packaging/bottling, washdown, cooling and ancillary uses.YesNo