The NZ Ministry for Environment and Statistics NZ have produced a report in a series on environmental reporting which is the first focused solely on land: Our Land 2018. The New Zealand economy, its agriculture, tourism, freshwater quality and climate change mitigation and adaptation potential are closely related to soil and ecosystem health. But the report demonstrates that land is being used in ways which promote degradation of soil, water, ecosystems and biodiversity. Minister for Environment, David Parker, acknowledges the need to improve land management and says a “National Policy Statement for Versatile Land and High Class Soils” is to be prepared.
Sources: http://www.mfe.govt.nz/publications/environmental-reporting/our-land-2018 https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/environment-report-highlights-serious-land-issues
The UN Conference on Climate Change in Paris 30 November to 11 December 2015 [COP21] confirmed the target of keeping global temperature rise to less than 2°C above pre-industrial levels, but added that the target should be 1.5°C, needed to protect island states most threatened by sea level rise. It was agreed to ask all countries to review their 'Intended Nationally Determined Contributions' every 5 years, starting 2020. Countries were encouraged to make progress to more ambitious targets and must not change them to less ambitious. They should aim to achieve carbon neutrality during 2050-2099; this goal will require ceasing to use the most polluting fossil fuels. Funding for projects enabling adaptation to climate change impacts must raise US$100 billion per annum now [donations and loans] and be increasing. Rich countries are to assist developing countries; rich countries and developing countries are to assist the poorest countries. A meeting in 2025 is to further quantify commitments to assist the poorest countries. Formal signing of the agreement takes place in New York on 22 April 2016. To come in to force, it needs to be ratified by at least 55 countries together representing at least 55% of global emissions.
The 21st 'Conference of Parties' since 1992 [COP21] is poised to deliver agreement on the rules providing for periodic review of the 'Intended Nationally Determined Contributions' to greenhouse gas emissions. 146 of the 195 countries in the UN 'Framework Convention on Climate Change' [UNFCC] had submitted proposals by 1 October 2015, 155 by 30 October.
The 'worst case' scenario based on the current trajectory of emissions [which many scientists believe to be the 'most likely' scenario] would result in global warming of 4.5 to 6°C by 2100. The 'intended contributions' published by 1 October have been estimated [by the UNFCC] to result in global warming of 2.7 to 3.0°C by 2100. These contributions are intended to be achieved by 2025 to 2030. To achieve the widely recognised objective of global warming less than 2°C by 2100 [or 1.5°C as some countries demand] is expected to need more ambitious contributions than those currently on offer. Hence the importance of COP21, one outcome of which is expected to be an agreed mechanism for periodic review of intended contributions to greenhouse gas emissions reduction.
World Water Day 2014 is on 22 March. Follow the link at left for information related to New Zealand water and an event in Christchurch.
Following the UN Conference on Sustainable Development 2012 [“Rio + 20”] a water summit was held in Hungary, primarily to develop a global ‘water development goal’ for Millennium Development from 2015. The ‘Budapest Water Summit Statement’ is the result. This 6-page statement [see URL below] expands on seven main outcomes from the Summit, with brief headings: 1) Water is fundamental; 2) Water unites; 3) Water connects; 4) Water and ecosystems; 5) A dedicated water goal; 6) Capacity development for water; 7) A robust inter-governmental institutional mechanism. The water goal, 5, would be supported by specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound [SMART] targets related to: drinking water, sanitation, integrated water resource management, re-use, pollution, resilience including to climate change.
An article in Science on 7 March 2013 reports the use of 73 ice and sediment cores from around the world to reconstruct Earth’s temperature back 11 300 years to the end of the last ice age. It shows a warmer planet now than has been the case during 70-80% of that time period. The last 5000 years showed an average 0.7 degree C cooling, whereas the last 100 years showed an average 0.7 degree C temperature rise. "The Earth's climate is complex and responds to multiple forcings, including carbon dioxide and solar insolation," says one of the authors. "Both changed very slowly over the past 11 000 years. But in the last 100 years, the increase in carbon dioxide through increased emissions from human activities has been significant. It's the only variable that can best explain the rapid increase in global temperatures."
Ecological Footprint Co-Founder and President, Dr Mathis Wackernagel, and co-creator of the Ecological Footprint, Dr. William Rees of the University of British Columbia, have been named the winners of the 2012 Kenneth E. Boulding Award, the world’s top honour in the field of ecological economics. The biennial award will be presented at the UN “Rio +20” Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, 20-22 June 2012.
Two Pacific Ocean neighbours of New Zealand rank 1 and 2 on a World Risk Index released in September by the UN University Institute for Environment and Human Security based in Bonn, Germany [Institut für Umwelt und menschliche Sicherheit]. Vanuatu at 32% and Tonga at 29% rank above such nations as Philippines, Solomon Islands, Guatemala and Bangladesh using four indicators of risk to natural disasters: exposure; susceptibility; coping capacities; and adaptive capacities. Although the index is focussed on suddenly occurring hazards like earthquakes and floods, it also includes chronic hazards like droughts and sea level rise – no doubt the reason for the position of Vanuatu and Tonga. Japan at rank 35 is the only developed country to have a Risk Index greater than 10%. New Zealand and Australia rank 119 and 120 [of 173: Qatar 0.02%], both at about 4%.
In addition to the pre-Budget announcements on a National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management and a pollution clean-up fund [see below, 18 May] an announcement was made on 9 May by the Minister for Agriculture, David Carter, on “Lifting investment in irrigation”. A new Irrigation Acceleration Fund will provide M$35 over five years to “support the development of irrigation infrastructure proposals to the ‘investment-ready’ prospectus stage”. Also announced was an ‘intention to consider’, in a future budget, Crown equity investment up to M$400 from 2013/14 in construction of regional-scale schemes, some involving storage. The Government intention is to “give confidence” to capital markets to invest in such schemes.
On 9 May, as part of pre-Budget announcements, Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith outlined three initiatives related to fresh water management. One related to irrigation is noted above. A National Policy Statement [NPS] “Freshwater Management 2011” was gazetted 12 May to take effect 1 July 2011. It has a 5-year history. A Proposed NPS was prepared by the Minister for Environment following a decision to do so in 2006. This was subsequently referred to a Board of Enquiry, which notified a modified Proposed NPS in September 2008. The Board reported its recommendations to the Minister in January 2010. Rather than adopting the recommendations in whole or in part, the Minister in March 2010 referred this modified Proposed NPS to the Land and Water Forum. The Forum included comment in its report to the Minister in September 2010. The NPS has national objectives and consequent policies related to water quality and quantity, integrated management and tangata whenua roles and interests. These have to be observed by regional councils in their Regional Policy Statements, which in turn influence the content of regional plans for water management. The third initiative is for a ‘pollution clean-up’ fund aimed to assist communities with historic water pollution problems. This arose from a recommendation of the Land and Water Forum in their September 2010 report. A contestable fund of M$7.5 in each of 2011/2012 and 2012/2013 will invite applications from June 2011. Sources: http://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/govt-issues-nps-fresh-water-management ; http://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/budget-2011-new-fresh-water-clean-fund
World Water Day in 2011 is marked on 22 March. There are events and activities around the world, including in New Zealand, in accord with the 2011 theme "Water for Cities: Responding to the Urban Challenge". See more by clicking on the lowest navigation entry on the list at left. As will be obvious from earlier News posts here about the recent Christchurch earthquakes, this city now has an even greater challenge than previously expected to restore and rehabilitate water ecosystems, networks and amenity values.
The post-earthquake repairs and clean-up are sufficiently advanced for us to resume occupancy of the office. Computer and telecoms systems are back in order [and tied down]. Aftershocks continue and there remain major infrastructure and access problems in central Christchurch and Eastern suburbs.
Limited access to our Deans Park office has allowed retrieval of computing equipment and files. Work has resumed from home. Email is functioning [see 'Where we are'] but all telephone calls are currently diverted to our office landlord, Aqualinc Research Ltd [Dr John Bright]. Target date to re-occupy the office is 14 March.
Due to a major earthquake at Lyttelton and Christchurch on 22 February 2011 there has been loss of life and devastation of buildings in the central city. DPC Ltd office is presently not accessible. We ourselves [Robyn and David] and our immediate family and friends are fine and our house is OK.
A news item here a year ago [11 Feb. 2010 World’s 3rd Largest Dam?] reported that “the Brazilian government has granted an environmental licence for the Belo Monte dam on the Xingu River tributary of the Amazon, near Altamira in Northern Brazil.” That was in spite of widespread opposition from community and environmental groups. Now the next step has been taken with the granting of a ‘partial’ installation licence. It allows the dam builder [Norte Energia] to build access roads and start clearing forest from dam construction sites. It is claimed by opposition groups [and reportedly also by the Government’s own Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office] that the dam builder has not complied with environmental and social requirements for an installation licence and that there is no provision for a ‘partial’ licence in Brazilian law. The Public Prosecutor is quoted as saying that the Environmental Agency which granted the licence [IBAMA] is “putting the region at a high social and environmental risk by granting a license allowing installation of the construction site while not requiring compliance with legally-mandated safeguards.” The Environmental Agency’s President recently resigned, reportedly in connection with the licence and related political pressure. The Brazilian National Development Bank has decided to not release funds from a US$640 million loan to the dam builder until 40 social and environmental loan conditions are met and a full installation licence is issued.
Sources: http://www.waterlink-international.com/news/id1666-Approval_for_Belo_Monte_Dam.html?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20110202+-+WL ; http://www.internationalrivers.org/en/2011-2-3/developer-backing-out-loan-construction-risky-belo-monte-dam
2 February 2011 is the World Wetlands Day of the Ramsar Convention, this year having its 40th anniversary. 2011 is also the UN International Year of Forests, so the theme of World Wetlands Day is 'Wetlands and Forests' this year. Six of the 1912 wetlands designated as 'of International Importance' are in New Zealand, covering 55 500 hectares: Firth of Thames, Kopuatai Peat Dome, Manawatu River mouth and estuary and Whangamarino peat bog and swamp in North island; Awarua and Farewell Spit in South Island. We also have a National Wetland Policy (1986). The Department of Conservation is marking the Ramsar 40th Anniversary with a 'Target 40' calendar of activities related to wetlands.
The Directors, Management and Staff of David Painter Consulting [DPC] Ltd [that's Robyn and David] wish you all the best for this Christmas Season and a great start to New year 2011.
The magnitude 7.1 earthquake centred West of Christchurch on 4 September has had extensive coverage in the news media. There are tragic stories of disrupted life in some city suburbs and rural districts and historic buildings destroyed in the central business district and in the countryside. On a more positive note, possibly 70-80% of Christchurch homes escaped with minor or no damage, much of the rural landscape is untouched and there was NO loss of life directly from the earthquake. Aftershocks up to magnitude 5.4 have continued, leaving people unsettled, but there is much determination to 'get on with life'. The DPC Ltd office in Christchurch had no damage other than contents strewn on the floor. Normal service resumes shortly!
The largest iceberg in the Northern Hemisphere at the beginning of August 'calved' from the ice tongue of the Petermann Glacier in Northwest Greenland on 4 August. It is the largest such event on this glacier since 1991. Envisat ASAR satellite imagery is being used to monitor its movement because it is about to enter the Nares Strait, which is navigable by icebreakers during August and September. And what has this to do with Te Waihora Lake Ellesmere, near Lincoln [see home page photo]? Only the names. The Nares Strait separates Greenland from Ellesmere Island [Canada] and connects the Lincoln Sea with Baffin Bay.
A meeting in South Korea of representatives from 85 countries agreed on 11 June to the formation of an ‘Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services [IPBES]’. It is expected to be approved by the UN General Assembly later this year and will operate much like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC]. The IPBES will periodically assess, at scales from global to sub-regional, biodiversity and ecosystem services to humankind such as: fresh water; fish, timber and a stable climate. It should also identify gaps in research and identify tools available to allow policy-makers to apply science to resource management decision-making.
China is reported to be considering building a 38 GW hydropower station on the Yarlung Tsangpo River in SW Tibet. The largest hydropower installation in the world at present is the Three Gorges dam on the Yangtze River in China, with installed capacity usually given as about 18 GW. There is already a 500 MW installation under construction further upstream on the Yarlung Tsangpo and four others planned. 38 GW is more than 50 times the capacity of the Manapouri Power Station, New Zealand’s largest. The Yarling Tsangpo is said to be “the last great undammed river in Tibet”. After passage through Himalayan gorges it becomes the Brahmaputra River in India. Eventually, in Bangladesh [as the Jamuna River], it merges with the Ganges and Meghna Rivers in the world’s largest river delta. The lower reaches of the Brahmaputra [“son of Brahma”] are sacred to Hindu. As the catchment of the river includes areas of China, Tibet, India and Bangladesh, and as the delta regularly floods with loss of lives and property, there are bound to be international issues related to upstream storage management.
Sources: Guardian Weekly 28 May-3 June 2010 p.6; http://www.indianetzone.com/29/origin_brahmaputra_river.htm
The World Water Council [see Global Water-related Links] last October signed an agreement with the French Government and the City of Marseille to hold the 6th World Water Forum there in March 2012. There has been a World Water Forum every third year since 1997: in Marrakech, The Hague, Kyoto, Mexico and in Istanbul in 2009. The Forum is probably the world’s largest water conference, with over 20 000 attendees from more than 180 countries in 2009: politicians, NGO representatives, government officials, water professionals and scientists. Working together with runner-up candidate, Durban, South Africa, France and Marseille have vowed to make this a ‘Forum of solutions’. After their meeting in June 2009, the World Water Council Board of Governors “expressed a clear need to deepen the dialogue on vital issues such as sanitation and the linkages between water, energy and agricultural production. They also indicated the need to broaden the engagement for water involving a wider variety of stakeholders that depend and impact on water resources. Furthermore, they indicated the need to mobilize further political will, for example to realize the Millennium Development Goals, to adapt to climate change and pro-actively prepare for disasters.”
Minister for Environment, Dr Nick Smith, and Minister for Local Government, Rodney Hide, announced today that the Environment Canterbury Council is to be replaced by five to seven Commissioners, chaired by Dame Margaret Bazley, probably effective 1 May 2010. Special legislation is to be introduced to make temporary changes to the Resource Management Act and the Local Government Act to give the Commissioners special powers until October 2013, when Local Government elections occur. Commissioners will be given powers to “fast track the completion of the” [Natural Resources Regional] “plan” and to “impose targeted moratoria on water take consents and to make decisions on water conservation orders.” The legislation will give recognition to the Canterbury Water Management Strategy. There has been no decision in relation to the Ministerial Review Group recommendation [see News 19 Feb.] for a new Canterbury Water Authority.
A report released on World Water Day [q.v. Comments 22 Mar] by the World Bank’s Independent Evaluation Group points out that nearly one third of approved projects since 1997 have been related to water: mostly irrigation, storage dams and hydropower. But the report also states that: "The Bank and the countries have not yet sufficiently tackled several tough but vital issues, among them sanitation, fighting pollution, restoring degraded aquatic environments, monitoring and data collection, and cost recovery." It notes that there is water supply stress on about 700 million people in 43 countries, but there has been "no apparent correlation between a country's water stress and Bank lending for water to that country." The Bank has said in reply that it responds to priorities set by country governments and that countries with the most severe water problems have received the most financing. Nonetheless, it was seeking ways to close the water resource gap in countries.
Virginia Tech’s Marc Edwards and others have identified a ‘gap to the tap’ water safety issue in the USA. While most tap water is supplied in a good state from supplies and treatment facilities to individual houses, the responsibilities of local and federal regulators stop outside the house. Virginia Tech and EPA studies have shown that “there are isolated problems due to: harmful bacteria which can grow in home plumbing; leaching of lead, copper and plastic constituents from home plumbing hardware; and even human error, when a clean water line can accidentally be connected to contaminated water lines." New research is looking specifically at the problem of lead in school drinking water supplies and how to provide adequate testing for it.
Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, is the fastest-growing capital in the world but experts predict it will run out of economically viable water by 2017. Its water supply catchment 20 km NW, Wadi Dahr, is also used to grow the trees that provide qat leaves, used as a mild narcotic by many Yemeni men. Together, the Sana’a population growing at 7% p.a. and the irrigation of qat, ensure that Wadi Dahr’s aquifer is being depleted at four times the rate of the annual rainfall replenishment. And it is not only Sana’a; 19 of 21 main aquifers in Yemen are depleting as a result of drought and increasing demand. Yemen’s national water resource provides about 200 m3 per person p.a. – compare New Zealand’s 100 000 m3 p.p. p.a. or the international ‘water poverty’ figure of 1000 m3 p.p. p.a. The problem is so serious that authorities have considered moving the capital, or pumping from a desalination plant on the coast, with a 2000 m lift. So far no solution is acceptable. And yes, ceasing to grow irrigated qat has been considered but also presents problems as it provides much-needed employment in a country where half the workforce earns less than US$2 per day. Yemen is also expected to run out of oil about 2017, which currently provides three quarters of government revenue. A sad irony is that state-subsidised diesel is used to pump water from aquifers, so the government is estimated to have spent about US$700 million depleting its own national water resource.
National Policy Statements [NPS] have been provided for in the Resource Management Act [RMA] since its enactment in 1991. A NPS on Freshwater Management has been in preparation since 2006. In 2008 a Board of Enquiry was set up to report to the Minister for the Environment on a proposed NPS. The Board, chaired by Alternate Environment Court Judge David Sheppard, reported to the Minister on 28 January 2010 and provided a revised NPS. The Minister has decided to not “make any national level decisions on fresh water until the Land and Water Forum reports back in June 2010.” [See Comment 25 Feb. 2010] The Board report also notes [S. 122] that: “by the end of the hearing of submissions on the proposed NPS, and by the time this report was prepared, the report of the Board of Inquiry on the review of the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement had not been published; the report of the Board of Inquiry into the proposed National Policy Statement on Renewable Electricity Generation had not been published; the legislation to adopt the Vision and Strategy for the Waikato River had not been passed; and the processes on the proposed National Environmental Standard on Ecological Flows and Water Levels had not been completed.”
The reviews of the performance and governance of Environment Canterbury [ECan] instigated in October 2009 by Minister for Environment, Dr Nick Smith, and Minister for Local Government, Rodney Hide, were made public in a report released today. Under Section 24A of the Resource Management Act (1991) [RMA], the Minister for the Environment may investigate performance, failures and omissions of a local authority and make recommendations. Under Section 25, at his discretion, the Minister may appoint one or more persons to take the place of the authority, but only after written notice has been given and the authority has not responded in a manner which satisfies the Minister. Similar powers are conferred on the Minister responsible for local government by Sections 253-256 of the Local Government Act 2002. Today’s report by a Review Group chaired by former Deputy Prime Minister, the Rt Hon. Wyatt Creech, also took into account current planning related to the Canterbury Water Management Strategy. The Review Group is very critical of ECan’s recent performance and governance, being “struck by the ‘gap’ between ‘what needs to be done’ to appropriately manage water and ‘ECan’s capability to do so’.” They call this gap “enormous and unprecedented” and say that “a profound change in approach is required”. The Group finds much to commend about the Canterbury Water Management Strategy, but notes that this will not alone resolve the other problems identified. The Review Group’s primary and major recommendation is that a new “Canterbury Regional Water Authority” [CRWA] should be created, with its own Act of Parliament, initially having only appointed members. In the meantime, legislation should be urgently enacted to enable a temporary Commission to replace the ECan Council, which Commission would separate from ECan the water-related functions and transfer them to the new CRWA. In the Ministers’ release today, Dr Smith called the Review Group report “concerning and challenging”. He said that it was “difficult for the Government to ignore the unanimous conclusions of the four reviewers and the major issues they raise about its capacity to manage water in Canterbury”. The two Ministers said that “the Government had not formed a view on the major changes proposed in the report”. “We will be consulting with Environment Canterbury, Canterbury Mayors, Ngai Tahu and key water stakeholders before making any decision. Our considerations will be mindful of the recommendations for urgent intervention but also of the huge significance to the long-term well being of Canterbury of these proposals." ECan Chairman, Alec Neill, has responded in a release today by pointing out some of the positive features of ECan’s work noted in the report and by stating that ECan “will work constructively with the government following the release of the review group report”.
Sources: http://www.mfe.govt.nz/publications/rma/investigation-performance-environment-canterbury/index.html ;
Seven journal papers 2007 to 2009 dealing with various aspects of contamination of public-supply groundwater wells are currently available online at a USGS web page [see ‘Source’ below]. They deal with: redox conditions; aquifer geochemistry; roles and vulnerability of young and old groundwater; groundwater age mixing; flow within wells; and short-circuit pathways.
The decision of the Hearing Commissioners was issued on 12 February. It provides a review of the consent conditions of 523 water permits of existing consent holders in this zone, which covers about 128 000 hectares between the Selwyn and Rakaia Rivers on the Canterbury Plains. Environment Canterbury’s ‘annual allocation limit’ for the groundwater zone under its Proposed Natural Resources Regional Plan [PNRRP] is 215 million cubic metres per year [Mm3/a]. The currently consented allocation is about 245 Mm3/a, i.e. 114%, making it a ‘red zone’. About 20% of the consent holders have 80% of the allocation. Surface water resources are connected with the zone aquifers, and there is a particular concern about low flows in springs and lowland streams, including those tributary to Te Waihora Lake Ellesmere. The decision provides for revised consent conditions relating to: annual volumes of take; minimum stream flow effects; required water metering; efficient use; and the special nature of Selwyn District Council takes for community supply. It recognises ‘intensive pasture’ as the land use for calculating annual allocations. The decision deliberately does not deal with future management, including ‘adaptive management’ proposals and ‘far-field’ depletion effects. It does recognise provisions of the PNRRP, including the Schedule WQN9v3 method of calculating annual volumes.
Brazil already has, jointly with Paraguay, the world’s 2nd largest dam, Itaipu. Only China’s Three Gorges is bigger. Now the Brazilian government has granted an environmental licence for the Belo Monte dam on the Xingu River tributary of the Amazon, near Altamira in Northern Brazil. Information on the project varies widely. Cost estimates vary from US$4000 million [Brazil’s President Lula] to more than US$16 000 million [Alstom, World #1 hydro supplier]. Even the power output is disputed: installed capacity will be 11 000 MW, but critics note that ‘only’ 1000 MW will be usable in low-flow periods. [New Zealand’s largest power station at Lake Manapouri is 710 MW.] Critics also say flooding 500 km2 of land would affect the lives of up to 40 000 people, devastate rainforest and damage ecosystems including fish stocks.
The need for clean water following the 12 January Richter 7.2 earthquake in Haiti has not been a focus in main news coverage, but is significant. One aid agency, Water Mission International, was already there when the earthquake struck and was able to quickly scale up operations. The Poul Due Jensen Foundation and others have provided funding for 20 more pumping units to add to the 2 installed in the first week after the earthquake, together with another 7 installed by 3 February. The pumps are solar-powered Grundfos SQ units and are installed with a chlorination unit. Grundfos say the “pumping systems provide clean water for so far 20 000 to 30 000 needy in Haiti”.
Source: http://www.waterlink-international.com/news/id964- Clean_Water_for_Thousands_of_People_In_Haiti.html?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20100203+ WL
Many organisations around the world and in New Zealand marked World Wetlands Day on 2 February, the anniversary of signing the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance at Ramsar, in Iran, in 1971. Environment Canterbury Councillor, Jane Demeter, contributed an article to The Press on the day. There had been a "Soggy Feet at Boggy Creek" gathering the previous Saturday near Leeston, in Canterbury, with bus trips to a more developed restoration project at Harts Creek, near Waihora Lake Ellesmere.
Harts Creek, World Wetlands Day [Photo: Frank Sharpe WET ]
Boggy Creek, World Wetlands Day [Photo: Jane Demeter, ECan]