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Irrigation and Freshwater Management Policy Changes

14 May 2018

At the same time as a National Policy Statement on Versatile Land and High Quality Soils is being prepared [see News 15 May 2018], Environment Minister, David Parker, has indicated a change in policy on fresh water management, including government support for irrigation.  He states that recent economic growth supported by expanded and intensified dairy farming and exports, in turn supported by new irrigation, have been detrimental to environmental quality.  The expansion and intensification of dairying, especially in regions like Southland and Canterbury, caught both territorial and regional government agencies unprepared.  Although comprehensive and collaborative remedial activity has occurred, it will still take a long time – decades – to see improvement in some areas.  Central government intends to extend successful approaches nation-wide, driven by changes to the existing National Policy Statement on Freshwater.  On the other hand, the Crown Irrigation Fund is being wound up, in line with this Government’s view that irrigation schemes should not be taxpayer subsidised. [For contrast, see the News post here for 18 May 2011.]

Sources:  Media reports including Farmers Weekly 13 April 2018

New Zealand and the COP21 Agreement

19 Jan 2016

The New Zealand Government submitted an 'Intended Nationally Determined Contribution' to the 2015 UN Conference on Climate Change in Paris [see News 19 January 2016] of an 11% reduction below 1990 values by 2030 [equivalent to 30% reduction below 2005 levels].  The previous target had been a 5% reduction below 1990 values by 2020, which is unlikely to be met, unless by creative accounting using emission reduction units.  A fair and ambitious target might be more like a 40% reduction by 2030, as offered by the European Union and was strongly suggested by public meetings run by the Ministry for Environment throughout New Zealand in 2015.

Rousing from sleep

9 Dec 2015

As is probably not uncommon in the case of a 'one man band' maintaining a website along with multiple other demands on time, this site has been through a period of neglect.  It is about to be updated and modified over the next couple of months.

Canterbury Water Management Progress

21 Oct 2013

Since the ‘Canterbury Water Management Strategy’ was put in place in November 2009 there has been a ‘sea change’ in water management in the Canterbury Region.  The ten Zone Committees covering the region, and the Regional Committee, have engaged with their constituent communities, been the beneficiaries of significant science, technical and economic expert advice and made recommendations for action to their local and regional government authorities.  All ten Zone Committees and the Regional Committee have published Implementation Programmes and those committees earliest in place are producing or have produced Implementation Programme Addenda.  Several of the latter now form the bases of the Sub-regional Sections of the latest statutory Land and Water Regional Plan whose policies and rules govern regional water management in Canterbury.  The change from water management prior to 2009 is very significant; the influence on nutrient and land management moves it much closer to ‘integrated catchment management’.  The closeness of the Strategy outcomes to the intent of the Budapest Water Summit Statement [see ‘News 21 October 2013’] is remarkable.
Sources: Many, including http://ecan.govt.nz/get-involved/canterburywater/Pages/default.aspx

An inverse relationship

15 Mar 2013

The lack of news and comment on this page over the last 8 months is inversely related to the amount of water-related activity at DPC Ltd during that time!  In particular, ‘water cooperation’ [see World Water Day 2013 in menu, left], in the form of collaborative work on the Canterbury Water Management Strategy, has been in full cry. More on this when activity slows to nearer a ‘normal’ pace.

Shortest Day -- Shortest Comment

18 Jun 2012

The winter solstice [from Latin -- sun stopping] in the Southern Hemisphere occurs on 21 June at 11:08 a.m. NZST.  So 21 June is the shortest day. 

Christmas Greeting 2011

23 Dec 2011

The directors, management and staff of David Painter Consulting [DPC] Ltd [that is, Robyn and David] wish all website visitors well for this Christmas season and hope for a great year 2012 coming up for you.  Life in Christchurch since September 2010 has been dominated by earthquakes, aftershocks, loss of life and destruction or demolition of buildings but the recovery and rebuild are now starting in earnest.  We are now back to normal operation at DPC and looking forward to the New Year.

Happy Birthday www

10 Aug 2011

According to an article in Nature News yesterday, 6 August was the 20th anniversary of when the first website went live in 1991.  It was at the European Laboratory for Particle Physics, on the France-Switzerland border near Geneva, better known as CERN [Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire].  Tim Berners-Lee and colleagues took the idea of ‘hypertext’ – a word coined by Ted Nelson – and turned it in to HTML [hypertext mark-up language], the computer language behind this and other websites [see ‘View/Source’ in the Internet Explorer browser, or equivalent in others].  The original purpose was as “an information management system which would allow people at different sites to share their ideas and all aspects of a project.”  Over 20 years, “a project” has become “just about anything”, both good and bad.  In some of the world’s cultures, a 21st birthday is marked as a milestone indicating ‘maturity’.  In a year’s time, I doubt if the World Wide Web will show any signs of physical growth diminishing to zero, or ‘growing up and settling down’ in a sense of social responsibility.  But who would want to be without it now?

Eight Months and Three Months Post-Earthquakes

18 May 2011

Aftershocks from the 4 Sep. 2010 M7.1 earthquake and the 22 Feb. 2011 M6.3 earthquake [see News 8 Sep. 2010 and 26 Feb. 2011] continue in quite high numbers and magnitudes around Christchurch. There have been 13 greater than M4.0, two of them greater than M5.0, in the month since 19 April – at the upper end of the ‘expected’ range.  Water supply has been restored to all suburbs. Wastewater services are being restored apace but repairs to sewer pipes, pumping stations and the main treatment works could take several years [see Christchurch Water Updates at left].  River channel and stopbank [levee] damage is being repaired, hopefully in time for winter flood flows. Responsibility for earthquake recovery has now transferred from Civil Defence and Emergency Management to a new Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority http://www.cera.govt.nz/ .

Tsunami History on Japan’s Honshu Island Sendai Coast

17 Mar 2011

The triple disaster of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear reactor radioactivity releases following the 11 March M9.0 earthquake has a still-rising death toll and increasing health risks.  The Sendai Coast of Honshu Island, where the subduction zone has the Pacific Plate sliding under the Okhotsk Plate which carries northern Japan, has a well-known, long history of tsunami risk.  There were major tsunami from this plate boundary in: 869, 1611, 1793, 1856, 1896, 1933, 1952 and 1968.  The June 1896 tsunami from the  ~M8  Meiji-Sanriku earthquake on the section of subduction zone just north of the recent rupture killed about 22,000 people.  It had a run-up height of about 30 m – and the 1611 event was possibly even bigger!  A journal paper published in 2001 stated: “The recurrence interval for a large-scale tsunami {in this place} is 800 to 1100 years. More than 1100 years have passed since the Jõgan tsunami and, given the reoccurrence interval, the possibility of a large tsunami striking the Sendai Plain is high. Our numerical findings indicate that a tsunami similar to the Jõgan one would inundate the present coastal plain for about 2.5 to 3 km inland.”
It does seem at this early stage that the Japanese tsunami coastal defences [designed based on the 1896 event] were overtopped rather than destroyed and did mitigate the still catastrophic effects inland.  And, that even the 10 minutes provided by the tsunami warning system did allow many people to escape to higher ground.
Sources: K. Minoura et al. J. Nat. Disaster Sci. 23, 83–88; (2001); Nature News 17 March 2011; personal communications from Dr Alastair Barnett [Barncon Consultants] and Dr Rob Bell [NIWA].

Why International Water News?

7 Feb 2011

News posts here are usually international items, with occasional posts about water in New Zealand, often in Canterbury.  There are reasons for this mix.  International news coverage by regular media in New Zealand provides a diet of politics, trauma, economics, sport, celebrities and entertainment, with occasional science, technology and religion.  Water news usually only makes the grade with rainfall, flood and drought disasters.  The international news posts we include here nearly always have relevance to New Zealand, even if only to put our problems and opportunities into a wider perspective.
Conversely, water resources and their management in Canterbury are currently undergoing changes that have a wider significance, to other parts of New Zealand and even internationally.  While the more dramatic aspects are being covered in regular news media, there are many other developments which do not get included.  Some of those will be briefly noted here, with links to further information.

Three Months Post-Earthquake

15 Dec 2010

Resuming normal service has taken longer than expected [see News 8 Sep. 2010], but not all due to the earthquake. Aftershocks magnitude M3.0 or greater are still occurring three months after the 4 September M7.1 earthquake – seven in the last week centred SW of Christchurch, up to M3.8. Comment on earthquake effects on water will follow in the New Year.

Christchurch Earthquake and Water

8 Sep 2010

See the news post today concerning this earthquake.  While we are still in 'recovery mode' and still experiencing quite large aftershocks, it is already clear that there will be interesting information coming from this earthquake related to water.  This fault is thought not to have moved in the 16000 years since up to half a km thick post-glacial and alluvial gravels have formed the Canterbury Plains.  Liquefaction of fine sands has occurred in many areas.  Deep surface drains have filled with river or coastal sand and there are extensive 'boils' forming miniature 'volcanoes' of sand across the landscape and in city streets.  Water levels in wells show marked changes in aquifer pressures post-earthquake.  Springs and surface water connectivity with groundwater have changed.  There will be interesting hydrogeological information to be gathered where monitoring was taking place and instruments survived, and in the near future. 

Middle East Water Management

16 Aug 2010

"Water can wash away a lot of problems. When professionals sit together from both sides, solutions appear. There is no reason why politicians cannot reach similar results."  Although that might also be our comment about the Canterbury Water Management Strategy [see 2 Jun., below], it actually comes as the final sentence in the introductory chapter of a 2010 book edited by Alon Tal and Alfred Abed Rabbo: "Water Wisdom: Preparing the Groundwork for Cooperative and Sustainable Water Management in the Middle East".  As if the political tensions between Palestinians and Israelis were not enough to make this such a difficult topic, the recent 5 successive years of drought have added to the already challenging hydrological statistics. Somewhat surprisingly, the contributors to this book from both sides of the political divide show that they have much agreement on the hydrological issues and priorities confronting them. While Israel's fresh water resources are very scarce by international standards, those currently available to the Palestinians are even less adequate. Water quality is a major issue. The book editors claim consensus of their contributors that: "Water is not just a commodity or a resource to be produced or mined, but holds a special spiritual and religious role for both sides in the conflict."  Water management in the Middle East takes place in extreme biophysical and political environments. Sometimes there are useful lessons available from extremes for those in much more favourable circumstances - like Canterbury!
Source: Water Wisdom: Preparing the Groundwork for Cooperative and Sustainable Water Management in the Middle East. Alon Tal and Alfred Abed Rabbo [Ed's], Rutgers University Press 2010.

Canterbury Water Management

2 Jun 2010

A comment on this page dated 25 Feb. 2010 noted that “Water governance and management in Canterbury is effectively ‘off limits’ for comment here while the significant changes proposed in the ministerial review [News, 18 Feb. 2010] are being actively discussed.”  Some of those proposed changes have been effected – and after three months they are still being actively discussed!  [e.g. News 30 Mar. 2010] Not commenting here does not indicate a lack of interest, nor a lack of views on the topic.  On the contrary, the political, legal, social and technical issues related to water governance and management in Canterbury are very significant, both locally and nationally.  Many of those issues are still playing out.  Not commenting continues to be the wisest policy for us at present in the interests of any positive contributions towards resolution of some of those issues.

More Irrigation with Less Water: China 2009; Canterbury 2010; DPC 1978, 1985

14 Apr 2010

China’s Water Resources Minister, Chen Lei, announced in February last year that they plan to reduce water use per unit of GDP 60% by 2020.  On average, China is short of 40 000 million m3 of water per year [about 30 m3 per person]: 300 million people have insufficient drinking water and 15.3 million hectares [approximately the area of South Island, 13% of China’s farm land] is subject to drought every year.  Agriculture, which implies irrigation, accounts for 70% of water use already so clearly there is a dilemma.  The Water Resources Ministry intends to move from policy exploiting water resources to a strategy making better use of existing water supplies by water demand management.  They will invoke three ‘red lines’: on water extraction; waste water disposal; and efficiency of water use.
Draft ‘outcome targets’ are currently being reviewed for the Canterbury Water Management Strategy.  Among nine ‘target areas’, five are: ecosystem health/biodiversity; natural character of braided rivers; drinking water; water use efficiency; irrigated land area.  Canterbury has 70% of New Zealand’s irrigated land area, about half a million hectares irrigated out of 1.3 million hectares considered to be ‘irrigable’.  Ten of about 30 groundwater allocation zones are estimated by Environment Canterbury to be “red” – over-allocated; four more are “yellow” – over 80% allocated.  The Strategy has ‘goals’ for much increased irrigated area [perhaps up to 70% more] by 2040.  Also clearly, this is another dilemma – how to do this while recognising goals for ecosystem health/biodiversity and the natural character of braided rivers, in particular.  So the target area ‘water use efficiency’ is set to be significant.
Peter Carran and David Painter proposed an appropriate set of definitions of volumetric irrigation efficiency more than 30 years ago [see ‘What is Irrigation Efficiency?’ in Publications, Technical].  The topic was explored further 25 years ago in an article entitled ‘More Irrigation with Less Water’ [q.v. ibid.].  There can be more irrigation, with less water, only if there is more ‘irrigation-with-less-water’.  That is happening in Canterbury already, for example when centre-pivot irrigation from on-farm storage replaces border-dyke irrigation from rostered open-channel supply.  And there can be more irrigation, with more water, without prejudice to ecosystem and social water values, by making better use of the time-availability of surface water supplies – which implies storage.  Storage, whether for irrigation or hydro-electricity, has had bad press in Canterbury in recent years.  But how many people would want to do without the storage, and therefore the convenient electricity, that modified and controlled lakes like Pukaki and Tekapo provide?  Even while useful debate on conservation and development of water resources in Canterbury continues, most interested parties should be able to agree that not wasting water, but using as little as possible of the appropriate quality to satisfy the intended purpose, will be an important aim.
Sources: http://www.nature.com/news/2009/090219/full/news.2009.111.html; http://www.canterburywater.org.nz/downloads/011%20Canterbury%20Water%20Management%20Strategy%20document%2024%2011%2009..pdf

Global Wastewater is a Resource

1 Apr 2010

More people now die as a result of polluted water than die from all forms of war and violence, according to a recent UNEP report.  More than half of the world’s hospital bed occupants are there with illnesses linked to contaminated water.  One child under 5 years old dies every 20 seconds from water-related disease. The global estimate of wastewater quantity from sewage, agricultural and industrial waste is 2000 million tonnes, containing 2 million tonnes of ‘waste’ dry matter.  Couple that with estimates that more than half of the 6800 million global population are now urban, and the importance of municipal and industrial wastewater management becomes obvious.  But some of that ‘waste’ dry matter is nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and various useful micro-nutrients, plus organic matter from which useful energy could be extracted.  Already about 10% of the world population is supplied with food grown using wastewater fertiliser and irrigation and this could be increased substantially.  The trial in Christchurch growing algae in municipal wastewater for oil production [see Interests and Concerns: Oil from Algae]  illustrates wastewater cleanup alongside bioenergy production.  The Christchurch City Council already uses anaerobic digestion of sewage for biogas production upstream of the wastewater ponds.  The UNEP report lists 6 major recommendations to cope with present and increasing wastewater production, including a ‘source to ocean’ approach and the need for national to local policies and strategies.  That translates in the New Zealand context to a need for national, regional and local policies and strategies.
Sources: http://www.unep.org/Documents.Multilingual/Default.asp?DocumentID=617&ArticleID=6504&l=en&t=long; http://www.waterlink-international.com/news/id1056-Time_to_Cure_Sick_Water.html?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20100331+WL

ICM [NZ] and IRBM [EU]

25 Mar 2010

In a rare example of synchronicity, from 26 to 28 April 2010 there will be both a workshop on Integrated Catchment Management [ICM] taking place in Nelson, NZ, and an international conference on Integrated River Basin Management [IRBM] taking place simultaneously in Lille, France.  It is a reasonable guess that the Nelson workshop will include extending lessons relevant to New Zealand catchments from the Landcare Research-led studies which have taken place on the Motueka catchment over about the last 9 years.  The Motueka River catchment covers about 2060 km2.  In contrast, and probably in a world first, a river basin management plan for the whole of the European Union has been launched to cover the period 2009-2015.  Covering about 4.3 million km2, this plan is said to implement integrated water resources management “at the scale of a continent on the basis of a common legal framework.”  That framework is the EU Water Framework Directive, which became law in December 2000. It required a draft RBMP by 2008 and a finalised plan by 2009.  The Motueka catchment is part of the UNESCO HELP international network. It might be an interesting scaling exercise [area ratio 2000:1] to see in what ways ICM in NZ can learn from IRBM in the EU, and vice versa.
Sources: http://www.waterlink-international.com/news/id1044-Integrated_River_Basin_Management.html?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20100324+WL;
 http://ec.europa.eu/environment/water/water-framework/index_en.html; http://icm.landcareresearch.co.nz/

World Water Day Today

22 Mar 2010

Today is World Water Day 2010.  See the link at left for information and further links. Links to the World Water Day and IRC websites are on the Links -- Global page.

UN World Water Development Report

4 Mar 2010

A UN World Water Development Report has been published by UNESCO every third year since 2003.  The third edition [2009] is intended “to accelerate coverage and investments for basic human water needs (drinking water supply, sanitation and health, food security, mitigation of floods and droughts and prevention of conflicts), giving priority to developing countries.”  A first reaction could be that a ‘global’ report on water development would not relate directly to water development in New Zealand.  On closer examination, this is clearly not the case.  The report’s conceptual framework recognises how developments broader than water considerations influence water policies and management and how water management is an integral part of responses to climate change, food security, energy security and disaster management.  This recognition is of course in addition to the well-recognised relevance of water to human health and safety, primary production and industry. N.B. Before downloading [source below], note that the file is about 42 Mb.

Local, National and Global Water Governance and Management

25 Feb 2010

Water governance and management in Canterbury are effectively ‘off limits’ for comment here while the significant changes proposed in the ministerial review [News, 18 Feb. 2010] are being actively discussed.  However, it is worth noting that, while Canterbury has the numerically largest problems related to water resources, allocation, quality and use, those problems occur to some extent in nearly all parts of New Zealand.  Nationally, there is a central government policy entitled “New Start for Fresh Water”, led by the Ministers of Environment and Agriculture, approved by Cabinet in 2009.  Part of the work is being carried out by the Land and Water Forum, with a report-back date of 31 July 2010, on “A Fresh Look at Fresh Water”.  There is a major current emphasis on water governance and management in Australia, where the fresh water problems are much greater than those in New Zealand.  Their Intergovernmental Agreement on a National Water Initiative started in 2004.  In the UK, there is a report due in April 2010 from the ICE, RAE and the CIWEM to the Chief Scientific Advisor to the Government on “The Engineering Contribution to Global Water Security”.  Water governance and management were key issues put to the 2009 UN Copenhagen COP-15 Conference on Climate Change by the Global Public Policy Network on Water Management.  Yes, we have water governance and management problems to solve in Canterbury; let’s keep them in national and global perspective.
Sources:http://www.mfe.govt.nz/cabinet-papers/implementing-new-start-for-fresh-water.html; http://www.nwc.gov.au/www/html/117-national-water-initiative.asp ;  http://gppn.stakeholderforum.org/fileadmin/files/GPPN_2008-9/Papers/GPPN_Key_Messages_Water_and_Climate_Change_Adaptation_COP-15.pdf ;

Environment Canterbury Groundwater Publications

18 Feb 2010

One of the reasons given to justify the recent imposition of ‘state of the environment water charging’ by Environment Canterbury [ECan] is that “the demand for irrigation in Canterbury and declining water quality from rural and urban land use in recent years are driving additional scientific investigations and monitoring work” [ECan website news 11 Feb. 2010].  Much of ECan’s scientific work is documented in their own technical reports, usually publicly available, but not always easy to find [notwithstanding the ‘Publications’ tab at top right of their ‘Home’ page].  ECan’s Customer Services will respond to requests.  Many of their groundwater technical reports are available as downloadable files from the web page noted below [‘source’].
source: http://ecan.govt.nz/publications/Pages/groundwater-reports.aspx

DPC Ltd Website

16 Feb 2010

The DPC Ltd website goes ‘live’ today. The main purpose of the website is to allow others to know what DPC Ltd is and does.  The main focus of the site is water: water resources; water management; water engineering; water science; water research. A secondary purpose of the site is to provide news, comments and information, mainly related to water.  A secondary focus of the site is sustainability: sustainable water management; sustainable technology; sustainable energy; sustainable living. Some pages are not yet prepared or released, but the general layout and content is as intended.  Comments are welcome.

The Gift of High Water

11 Feb 2010

Even a gift freely given sometimes comes at a cost.  So it is with hydro-power, New Zealand’s pre-eminent renewable energy generation.  The country is blessed with water-bearing westerly winds, high ground to catch some of the water and short steep distances to sea level allowing gravitational energy to be converted to oh-so-convenient electricity.  Hardly anyone now laments Hora Hora Power Station, built in 1910-13 and drowned under Lake Karapiro in 1947, as they enjoy the fruits of the contribution Karapiro power station makes to the national grid and enjoy the lake itself, as a landscape feature and rowing venue.  Many people over the age of about 50 remember well the controversy surrounding raising Lake Manapouri that raged through the 1960s.  The best way of matching demand for electricity to supply is reducing demand!  Profligate use and avoidable losses need to be eliminated.  Where new electricity generation is justified, hydro-power is still a good, renewable option.  The downsides, including flooded land and ecosystem effects in rivers upstream and downstream of a dam, lead to a need for careful balancing.  I addressed this balance in part in a presentation to U3A in 2004.  Now the balancing act is requiring attention for hydro projects on the West Coast of South Island, and in Canterbury and Hawkes Bay in relation to water storage for irrigation.  The Opuha Dam in Canterbury provides an example where there has been, arguably, a hydro-electric, irrigation and fishing win, win, win.
Source [Opuha Dam]: http://ecan.govt.nz/publications/General/LivingHereNov08.pdf

Haiti Earthquake

8 Feb 2010

The 12 January Richter 7.2 earthquake in Haiti  dominated international news through much of January.  News coverage has diminished, but the disastrous food, water, medical, infrastructural and security situation which has followed it continues.  The UN, USA and other governments and agencies eventually got resources flowing in through the airport and damaged port.  How can individuals far from Haiti continue to assist?  Notwithstanding a painfully slow-starting international aid effort, some NGOs were already on the ground and more now have significant activity; their major need is monetary donations.  Red Cross, Oxfam, UNICEF, MSF, SCF and many others come in to this category.