Irrigation New Zealand

IrrigationNZ will be carrying out an irrigation efficiency testing programme in South Canterbury this summer to help farmers improve their irrigation management.

The programme operated last summer in Selwyn, and over the previous summer in Ashburton. Around 360 irrigation systems were tested through those two programmes. The checking programme is the first large scale independent trial of irrigation efficiency that has been carried out in New Zealand.

Most farms with irrigation will spend over $50,000 a year in water and electricity charges.

“Checking your irrigation system is operating efficiently is a good investment as even small adjustments to your irrigation operation will quickly add up to thousands in savings over a few irrigation seasons. Fixing faults can help you save water and reduce nutrient losses,” says Steve Breneger, IrrigationNZ’s Technical Project Manager, who is overseeing the project.

The testing programme is carried out by University scholarship students who have been trained to carry out bucket testing which checks showing whether systems are working correctly.

The results are then reviewed by Steve Breneger, an irrigation educator with over ten years’ experience in irrigation installation, maintenance and repairs, who makes recommendations on how to improve performance. Farmers receive a summary of the test results listing any key performance issues and actions that would improve irrigation performance.

“A key part of the project is that it provides farmers with a good picture of both how well their irrigation system is operating and also how they are managing it. Farmers are offered advice on what they could do to improve their irrigation performance or their management of their irrigation system,” Steve Breneger says.

The testing carried out in Ashburton found that older irrigation systems performed more poorly than newer systems. In Selwyn the programme found that many newer systems were not operating well which highlighted the importance of commissioning irrigation systems to check their performance before they were handed over to farmers to operate.

In both districts, most farmers were using resources such as soil moisture monitoring tools to help them identify when they needed to irrigate.

The testing programme is being carried out until mid-February and will cover properties between the Waitaki and Rangitata River. Farmers need to register to be part of the programme. This can be done online at All irrigation system types can be tested except for border dyke irrigation.

The programme is supported by DairyNZ, Environment Canterbury, the Foundation for Arable Research, Fonterra, Oceania Milk, Opuha Water, Morven Glenavy Ikawai (MGI) Irrigation Company, Landcare Research and Federated Farmers.

Support from these organisations allows the testing programme to be carried out at a subsidised rate.