Waste no water

23 Jan 2020 Waste no water image

Do you think Australia would waste water like we do in New Zealand? I don’t think so. One of the main differences between New Zealand and our Australian neighbours is that we get a lot of rain, and they don’t. But the other difference is that in Australia, they store the water that they get, whereas we don’t.

In New Zealand, droughts have historically been a seasonal phenomenon but now, there is a worrying similarity to Australia: NIWA is predicting 35 plus degrees Celsius for some parts of New Zealand this weekend, with droughts forming in Northland, Auckland and parts of the Waikato.  It is quite likely that as the impacts of climate change increase, droughts in New Zealand could continue well beyond this summer.

We need to act while we can.  The answer is very simple: catch the rain when it falls, store the water, and then use it when droughts strike.  Therefore, the announcement that the Provincial Growth Fund is investing $7.11 million to create a sustainable water supply for the Wairarapa is indeed excellent news.  This will be achieved by water storage.  The climate change scenario for the Wairarapa could be that rain will only fall in the Tararua ranges, and that water will need to be captured and distributed.  

Masterton and every town in the Wairarapa will need this water for people.  Agriculture will also need water for animals and to grow grass.  Similarly, horticulture and viticulture will need water to grow plants.  

The aim of the new scheme is reliable fresh water in the future.  But we need to be doing this across the entire country: ‘one swallow does not make a summer’.  If we are going to manage the impacts of climate change, we will need water storage with schemes like the one in the Wairarapa across every part of New Zealand.

One of the biggest impediments to water storage is the difficulty that growers and farmers face in getting the regulatory approvals for private water storage.  The Government and councils need to move immediately to get rid of all the unnecessary red tape and make water storage a real option for everyone.  

Implementing water storage also needs to include everyone in town.  Why is there not a requirement that every new urban house has water storage to supplement town supply?  

There’s another comparison to be made with Australia.  The Australia Federal Government is spending $30 million buying water rights off farmers in the Darling River in New South Wales.  This is because the supply of water to the farmers is erratic and their farming ventures have failed because the Darling River dried up in 2015.  

We need to learn lessons from Australia, use our plentiful rain supply and not waste this precious resource.  It is time to get serious about water storage – now before it is too late.

Mike Chapman, Chief Executive