Local dairy farmers have been able to check their operations were up to spec last week with two Otago Regional Council workshops on regulation and consenting for effluent storage and discharge to land.

Applying animal effluent on to land provides valuable nutrients, but it must be managed carefully to avoid negative effects on ground and surface water quality.

Generally, all discharge requires resource consent, but the dates for applying for consents depend on effluent volumes, the number of days of storage available and council timelines, rules and definitions for animal effluent systems.

Council acting manager of consents Alexandra King said the new rules for effluent ponds and discharge had been in place for about 18 months and would apply to hundreds of farms in Otago.

‘‘Most of these farms will need a consent for their dairy effluent storage at some stage over the next 30 months,’’ Ms King said.

‘‘Farmers need to consider the volume of effluent storage they have on their farm when they need to potentially install new storage facilities, and have the resource consents in place to do so.

‘‘While there’s been a lot of engagement with dairy farmers through the annual compliance programme over the last two years, including workshops and letters farms, [the workshops were] another opportunity to ask questions and get advice and guidance from industry experts,’’ Ms King said.

Council compliance staff had been out to more than 302 dairy farms this year — up from 277 the previous season — talking with farmers about effluent regulations and other compliance issues.

Ms King said the provisions introduced last year included minimum standards for animal effluent storage and its application to land, and for the establishment of small in-stream sediment traps where required.

‘‘Some farms may require substantial investment in effluent infrastructure to comply, which could include engaging engineers and planning for future modifications, replacement or enlargement.

‘‘Now is time for farmers to begin this process so they are on the path toward making the required changes,’’ she said.

‘‘Ultimately, these protections are to safeguard the future of waterways which directly support various natural ecosystems, including farmland.’’

In June last year regional councillors ratified changes to the operative regional plan, Water for Otago, which allowed some key parts of proposed ‘‘plan change 8’’, which related to rural discharges, to become operative from June 4 last year.

Council catchment advisers can be contacted on 0800 474-082 and advice sought from public.enquiries@orc.