Saturday, December 9, 2023

Sun to help warn of excess rain

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Otago Regional Council installs remote solar-powered gauge as it extends flood warning system.
Environmental technician Brad Thomas installs cabling for the rain gauge.
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More than a tonne of gear was transported by helicopter to the Rock and Pillar Range behind Middlemarch, in Otago,  to install a new solar-powered rain gauge.

At around 700m in altitude on Glencreag Station, the Otago Regional Council’s  (ORC) environmental monitoring team spent a day installing the gauge, which will assist with any future flood responses around Middlemarch township.

The various components were airlifted by helicopter as the track to the site is not suitable for a 4WD towing so much equipment. 

ORC manager natural hazards Jean-Luc Payan said the main reason for installing the equipment is to assist the flood response to Middlemarch. 

“The site will help us better understand the rainfall affecting catchments located in the Rock and Pillar ranges and those that flow into parts of Middlemarch.”

The gauge is linked to ORC’s environmental data portal and people will be able to see exactly how much rain is falling. The gauge measures rainfall in real time as well as total precipitation, including snow melt, over time. 

The equipment is monitored remotely; however, the team will make monthly inspections to make sure everything is working correctly.

Payan said this is a unique system, built for Middlemarch at the request of ORC’s hazards team after public consultation. It will provide better flood warning for the township, especially during thunderstorm events, and improve Otago’s overall state of the environment rainfall information and flood warning.

The March and Dewar creeks flank Middlemarch and if there is a flash event these small creeks can become inundated.

There have already been multiple floodings of homes and businesses and it is expected there will be more of these such events due to climate change.

The ORC is extending the region’s flood warning system, which now consists of 44 rain gauges spread across Otago. 

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