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Water shortage to continue

The water shortage facing many parts of New Zealand looks set to continue, according to a report released today by NIWA’s National Centre for Water Resources.

Of particular concern is the eastern side of New Zealand, from Hawke’s Bay to Otago, said Charles Pearson from the National Centre.

“There are two major issues here. On one hand, we are predicting that there will be less rainfall in the next 50 years, but on the other hand, we are facing a rapid increase in demand for water for irrigation – irrigated land use is doubling every 10 years. Without careful management of our water resource, we will end up with less water in our rivers and groundwater systems.”

“The Ministry for the Environment say that ‘the easy water has gone’, said Mr Pearson. “We will have to meet future demand through storage, preferably out-of-stream storage, and by taking more from groundwater. As the Ministry puts it, we have to start using water smarter – allocate it to those who will use it best and make sure that everybody uses it efficiently.”

In comparison with many other countries, we are remarkably free of disputes over water, but we are likely to see more conflict in the future. We need to address these issues of water allocation so we can meet the Government’s programme for sustainable development.

How much water is there? Where is it? How much groundwater is there? Where does our water come from, and how are the sources affected by climate? How is water quality affected by lower or more variable flows? How can we use the water more efficiently?

We also have to think about the animals and plants in the streams, which, among many other things, help purify the water and provide recreational enjoyment for fishers and other users.

“These are just some of the issues we need to address to ensure that there is enough clean freshwater for all users.”

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