Aquifer recharge

Written By: - Date published: 8:00 am, October 31st, 2017 - 44 comments
Categories: disaster, Environment, farming, water - Tags: , , ,

This Guest Post is by John Hodgson, a long time angler, and active member of the NZ Salmon Anglers Association. 

___________________________________________________________

The fol­low­ing is a sim­ple demon­stra­tion to help peo­ple un­der­stand “Na­tures pro­cesses” for wa­ter re­newal of the Can­ter­bury Plains. Put wa­ter in the sink to near the top. Then us­ing a veg­etable drain­ing colan­der im­merse in the wa­ter and watch how quickly the in­com­ing wa­ter fills the colan­der. Next, lift up and ob­serve how fast the wa­ter drains. What you are see­ing is how na­ture’s plumb­ing sys­tem works in re­gards to aquafier wa­ter recharge.

This is the sys­tem of the Can­ter­bury plains and has worked sat­is­fac­to­rily for man and beast etc., and has had suf­fi­cient un­der­ground reserves of wa­ter along the foot hills of the Alps to main­tain a flow for the Aquafiers for sev­eral years when rain­fall and snow is at a low ebb. The po­si­tion now is that there are hun­dreds of deep bore wells, that have over 10 or more years drained the nat­u­ral reserves of wa­ter so the sink is empty. The con­se­quence of this is go­ing to be a mas­sive disas­ter.

The first be­ing no drink­able non-treated wa­ter and each year be­com­ing worse. It is false in­for­ma­tion that the rivers are dry be­cause of low rain­fall. The cause is ex­ces­sive draw off of the nat­u­ral wa­ter reserves by the dairy cow in­dus­try. (Ir­ri­ga­tion for agri­cul­ture is not a prob­lem, it is sea­sonal.)

Of the many opin­ions ex­pressed just lately about our wa­ter and no mat­ter how cor­rect and gen­uine they are, no change to the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion is pos­si­ble un­til the deep well own­ers are re­quired to lift their pumps three me­tres per year un­til equi­lib­rium is reached. It has taken less than ten years to get to this very se­ri­ous state of af­fairs and will take at least fif­teen years to start re­cov­er­ing.

The laugh­able side of the sit­u­a­tion is that the present Na­tional Gov­ern­ment col­lapsed the En­vi­ron­men­tal Coun­cil. They put in Com­mis­sion­ers to al­lo­cate wa­ter fairly, and have failed in their re­spon­si­bil­ity. We are now back to the ear­lier Coun­cil’s dis­cus­sion that the wa­ter takes are all over al­lo­cated. The sad side is that many farm­ers to­wards the coast­line who at­tended the many zone com­mit­tee meet­ings are go­ing to be dis­ad­van­taged to have enough wa­ter to run their farms and they will be fight­ing the up­land wa­ter tak­ers.

The se­ri­ous side is that as the mean wa­ter ta­ble drops, the over­load of pol­lu­tants from dairy­ing will con­tam­i­nate pro­gres­sively the wa­ter sup­ply for many com­mu­ni­ties un­til it reaches Christchurch proper. The Christchurch City Coun­cil has knowl­edge of this, and since the earth­quake era has been re­plac­ing dam­aged bores, but they are go­ing much deeper so the pol­lu­tion fac­tor will not show as early as with the shal­lower wells. The wa­ter bot­tling com­pa­nies need to be aware that the present pu­rity of sup­ply is in jeop­ardy.

In all of 70 years of be­ing able to vote in a gen­eral elec­tion I don’t re­call such a bad sit­u­a­tion as that which we have at the present time. Even the 1951 strike ac­tion and the Hol­land Gov­ern­ment re­sponse was tame com­pared to the present time. We are now deal­ing with the sur­vival of Can­ter­bury.

The cause of this se­ri­ous sit­u­a­tion is sim­ply the present Gov­ern­ment*, the Over­seas In­vest­ment Of­fice and the Banks that urged farm­ers to go into a very large debt re­pay­ment sys­tem with the prom­ise of an abun­dant wa­ter sup­ply. The Gov­ern­ment used in­ad­e­quate wa­ter sci­ence to start with and is fail­ing to recog­nise that many farm­ing units are go­ing to fail be­cause of debt re­pay­ment. It will be the Gov­ern­ment’s re­spon­si­bil­ity to ac­cept the debt of failed farms and pay the money­len­ders. It is also ironic the Gov­ern­ment is giv­ing mil­lions of dol­lars to­wards the re­build of Christchurch city, but ig­nores the on­com­ing disas­ter that has al­ready started by the de­struc­tion of our once fa­mous arte­sian wa­ters.

Update:

What Needs To Be Done Immediately.

1. No deepening of any bore wells without authority. This covers many shallow wells of less than 70 metres.

2. Instructions to the deep bore well’s owners to start lifting their pumps.

3. Extensive and accurate assessments of recording factors, and public recognition of the bore well holders of consents that they are doing what is required.

4. A statement from the Christchurch Council and the District Councils of how they will supply potable water for use by the public when the water becomes contaminated.

5. Will the councils confiscate the Canterbury Water scheme to supply what is needed?

6. What is the emergency profile for the Canterbury Health Board?

7. Fire fighting is able to use any water, (polluted or otherwise) as long as it is water.

8. So that people will be able to come to terms with the diminishing water flows, a cross section map showing bore depth relative to mean sea level starting from the foothills to the sea. The public are entitled to know because it is their water resource as well as private enterprise.”

this post was written before the change of government in October 2017.

44 comments on “Aquifer recharge”

  1. Antoine 1

    Well spoken

  2. Robert Guyton 2

    In Southland, aquifers and rivers are interconnected and water moves to and fro, backwards and forwards from one to the other, unseen. It’s worth picturing that when thinking about “green stream” events and other visible degradation in the surface waters.

    • ianmac 2.1

      Robert, Little is known about the shift between rivers in mid-Canterbury but the movement is critical for Canterbury water viability for town and irrigation. It is a vital area which should be researched.

  3. Ad 3

    “The sad side is that many farm­ers to­wards the coast­line who at­tended the many zone com­mit­tee meet­ings are go­ing to be dis­ad­van­taged to have enough wa­ter to run their farms and they will be fight­ing the up­land wa­ter tak­ers.”

    I’m not sure why this is sad. Farmers need to have this debate with each other – and that includes with Federated Farmers Canterbury. Farmers also need to determine whether the entire cycle of water in Canterbury is failing them enough to act.

    But I have a question:
    I have heard that the 2017 winter and spring in central and northern Canterbury has recharged the whole water system.

    Do you see that this is the case?

    • tracey 3.1

      I was wondering if it is sad cos the farmers closer to coast genuinely engaged in the process while others just went through lobbyists to get water for their dairy? Or sad cos the coastal farmers are not dairying but will get burdened with dairy excesses?

      • weka 3.1.1

        Also sad is that Ecan and the govt manage the commons so that farmers end up fighting each other over water.

  4. Gristle 4

    In North Otago/South Canterbury there is a substantial amount of water flowing underground. Holes that are dug for power poles (and the like) are regularly going down 2 or 3 meters into the alluvial gravels on the plains. Nowadays you will often see a green tide mark at the top of water table, and before you see it, you can smell it. The older/experienced hands say that this did not occur 15 years ago.

    You know how the ground filters out some of the shit and some of the chemicals. Well, maybe this is were it is occurring and being overloaded.

    • weka 4.1

      Yikes.

      Makes sense though. If you look at somewhere like Waimate, it’s basically all old wetland and river/creek systems.

      We are idiots in the extreme.

  5. garibaldi 5

    No excuses, the science has been there for a long time. It’s just another example of greed by pig headed capitalists ie Federated Farmers. They don’t even milk their poorly placed herds, they need slaves from the Philippines to do that because they have ruined the once great sharemilking ladder with their greed for intensive dairying/large herds. You would have to be nuts to try and get into farm ownership from scratch now. Why would young NZers bother, unless Daddy owns a farm?

    • Johan 5.1

      How many of our dairy farmers make an adequate living to sustain themselves and their family?

    • greywarshark 5.2

      That sharemilking system was of great benefit. But I will never forget the hard working bloke running sharemilking with his wife who said that the owner just kept piling stock onto the farm till it was at capacity and he didn’t have room or feed for the herd they were building and trying to develop. He died, and she said that the way the owner developed the farm was the reason, she said that he was working night and day to make it work. It was some decades ago, I thought how sad, the real farmers we wanted on the land in this country are being ousted by all sorts people like the Crafurs and so on. Getting every big lots, and then not even farming themselves, getting managers and imported labour in.

  6. ianmac 6

    Thanks for posting the above Weka. I have been off-line since Friday and John Hodgson has added to the above in the NZ Salmon Anglers Association. As an 87 year old John is very concerned about water in Canterbury.

    “What Needs To Be Done Immediately.
    1. No deepening of any bore wells without authority. This covers many shallow wells of less than 70 metres.
    2. Instructions to the deep bore well’s owners to start lifting their pumps.
    3. Extensive and accurate assessments of recording factors and public recognition of the bore well holders of consents that they are doing what is required.
    4. A statement from the Christchurch Council and the District Councils of how they will supply potable water for use by the public when the water becomes contaminated.
    5. Will the councils confiscate the Canterbury Water scheme to supply what is needed.
    6. What is the emergency profile for the Canterbury Health Board.
    7. Fire fighting is able to use any water, (polluted or otherwise) as long as it is water.
    8. So that people will be able to come to terms with the diminishing water flows, a cross section map showing bore depth relative to mean sea level starting from the foothills to the sea. The public are entitled to know because it is their water resource as well as private enterprise.”

  7. Mad Plumber 7

    The other issue is Ecans approach to Backflow prevention of bores. At one stage they were letting the use of a non testable device known as a Chemcheck valve which Irrigation NZ was promoting (they are cheaper).
    We do a lot of testing of on farm bores for house supplies and common thread in all the results is the high nitrate levels and it is quite surprising that coliforms (shit) does not occur more frequently.
    The installation of the filtration units are not cheap and the moans over the cost are amusing. We do not say well you shit in your own back yard———

    • ianmac 7.1

      John Hodgson reckons that of the deep bores “the deep well own­ers are re­quired to lift their pumps three me­tres per year un­til equi­lib­rium is reached.”
      What do you think Mad Plumber?

      • Mad Plumber 7.1.1

        I am just a simple plumber and to comment about that is out of my depth.But I have been lead to believe that when irrigation first started that in measuring the amount of water used ECAN relied on the rated capacity of the pumps and it was not until they made meters compulsory that they found how wrong they were.
        We were working on a new dairy shed on the plains and the effluent pond was dug out and left for a week or so before the liner was installed. Then there was a rain storm in the hills and a day later water started to leak in to the pond.

  8. Exkiwiforces 8

    Yikes, sounds like a few chickens are slowly coming home to roost.

    I can remember from my 1st year as a farm cadet at CHCH Polytech back 91, when our tutor Hamish talked about chemical leaching on the Canterbury Plains and especially on the outer suburbs of Christchurch when Applefields was going dambusters with it orchards at the time and possible long term affects of chemical leaching on the shallow aquaifers around CHCH.

    On a field trip around the plains looking and understanding the various soils and hydrology of the Canterbury Plains we had a member from DSIR who was then based out of the Lincoln University explaining why most of the then Canterbury Plains was mixed cropping with sheep and cattle as it due to the poor soils, the harsh winters/ summers and the water issues. It was one of the reasons dairy farms, horticulture areas were around the the outer suburbs of the main centres or the foot hills/ port hills. A question was asked if dairy were to take off and the answer was if it wasn’t managed a careful managed in a sustaining/ regulatory way with the proper check and balances. The long term effects will be huge to the water and soils, but short to medium effects of dairying well depend on the various catchments and soils as some areas will be more notable than in some areas as previous mention on soil and water.

    The out laying areas and region centres of the plains will see possible signs of leaching before CHCH will, but once it reaches CHCH it would have reached its Point of No Return (PNR) again what be the ongoing cost for water treatment for potable water? The other elephant in the room is what damage/ ongoing damage to aquaifers had after the earthquakes in the Canterbury region and bearing in mind the we haven’t had the Alpine faultline rupture before white settlement began and a unknown question there of the possible effects.

    As I’ve said before the dairy farming in NZ has become one great big Ponzi scheme and its bubble will burst with lasting effects from the big end of town to the small end of town!

    • ianmac 8.1

      A bit scary Exkiwiforces that as far back as 91 so much was known of the risks and yet the policy of denser farming at all costs went ahead anyway with the connivance of a political ECan. Wasn’t it Smith who justified the dismantling of an elected ECan by claiming that the elected body was making the “wrong” decisions? And yet the elected ECan had been working steadily and carefully to avoid over allocation.

      • Exkiwiforces 8.1.1

        I can remember Hamish and two other gentlemen saying that chemical leaching was only a theory to about the 70’s or it may have been a wee bit earlier. It was only when they started research into Agriculture and Horticulture practices on the Canterbury Plains after the big droughts of the late 70’s in looking at recharging the aquifers that they found Agriculture and Horticulture chemical traces in some of the wells which started to get the Agriculture and Horticulture researchers thinking not only in water allocation, but also the long term effects of chemical leaching be it man made or by animals/ Agriculture and Horticulture current practises.

        I think Nick Smith who sack the ECAN councillor’s , Ruth Richardson, Jenny Shipley and others who pushing for dairy farms on the plains at the time need to be questioned.

        My dad is good mates with the Deans family and Rob Cope- Williams along with a few other farmers who are still doing mix cropping still can’t their head around Dairy Farming on the Plains.

        Also Dad was saying they now Dairy Farming in the McKenzie Basin and in the Manatoto basin in Central Otago and my response was WTBF are they doing that? Weather there is the most extreme anywhere in the country be it summertime or winter from my army days with 1st Recce SQN NZ Scots RNZAC and its just plain nuts where they are now dairy farming.

        And I’ll keep saying is again this till the cow’s come home, dairy farming in NZ has become one great big Ponzi scheme and its bubble will burst with lasting effects from the big end of town to the small end of town!

        • Sam aka clump 8.1.1.1

          It’s actually really difficult for Fuana to evolve to a point of sustaining complex life because of a particular type of rock called dunnite. Dunnite makes up most of the Cantabury plains and the reason why water just disappears.

          • Exkiwiforces 8.1.1.1.1

            I’ve never heard of “Dunnite rock” as i’m at work, I don’t have access to GNS books to confirm “Dunnite rock” makes up the Canterbury plains as most of the Canterbury plains is made up of Greyweck and rocks/ sediment aka erosion from the Southern Alps (if it wasn’t for the rate of erosion of the Southern Alps the Alps would higher than the Himalayas. Unless you are talking the Mt Dunn ore belt which is behind Nelson which has it origins in Southland.

              • Exkiwiforces

                Cheers for DTB, Heard of Dunite from exploring as a kid with my late grandfather in the Nelson region many moons ago, but the Canterbury Plains are mainly up the Greywacke rock and rocks/ sediment aka erosion from the Southern Alps.

                • Sam aka clump

                  It’s traditional for Geo’s who discover an ore body to name it after themselves.

                  • Exkiwiforces

                    It was the spelling that got all twisted like the bowl of the century by a young Shane Warne to Mike Gatting and poor old Mike is still confuse as to what happen that day.

                    I may still have a piece of Dunite from Mt Dunn at my Mum and Dad’s with a heap of rocks from the Hill and other places from NZ like a chunk of Coal from the old family Coal Mine at Blackball.

          • Exkiwiforces 8.1.1.1.2

            The Canterbury Plains were during Otira Glaciation through erosion of the Southern Alps and it foothill. Pg7

            The Canterbury Plains are made up to a kilometre of Quaternary alluvial sediments blanket sedimentary and volcanic rocks. As we all know the Christchurch is built on former river channels with a shallow water table with underlying silts. Pg197.

            New Zealand’s major groundwater resources are held in flood plain aquifers on the eastern side of the main mountain ranges aka the Canterbury Plains. Groundwater is the major source (82%) of water for agriculture and is also important in some urban areas such as CHCH. About 3 billion cubic meters of freshwater falls on NZ as rainfall or snow each yr, but quickly flows to the coast. Therefore, potential to capture more of this water, once the Hydrology of each aquifer system is better understood. pg301

            The central Canterbury Plains is a 2000sq km area that lies between the Waimakariri and Rakaia rivers, which both flow 50km from the foothills of the Alps to the coast. This section goes on about leaching in the aquifers worth reading pg 322 to 325

            All references quoted are from the book “A Continent on the Move, New Zealand Geoscience Revealed, 2nd Edition” wonderful tool for amateur rock kicker or someone into Natural history like me. Also these books are useful for a detail understanding in your area.

            http://shop.gns.cri.nz/mqm15/
            http://shop.gns.cri.nz/mqm16/
            http://shop.gns.cri.nz/mqm13/
            http://shop.gns.cri.nz/mqm19/

        • ianmac 8.1.1.2

          Exkiwiforces you might remember the Snowy River Irrigation Disaster. The chemicals, often natural salts, drained back across the soils and again and again back into the river system. The end result was that the chemical loading of the irrigation poisoned the land.
          So the “…saying that chemical leaching was only a theory to about the 70’s,” was a very important warning which has gone unheeded by farmers who should know better. Mind you, owners of dairy farms are no longer the local cocky making good but commercial business operators after capital gain and quick returns regardless of the effects on the land.

          • Exkiwiforces 8.1.1.2.1

            The Snowy River Development was a Hydro power scheme not a Irrigation scheme. The Murray/ Darling basin was turned in a massive Irrigation scheme with the states over allocation water which in turn over the decades turn land in virtual salt pans and again growing such crops as rice and cotton which use a lot of water to grown in a semi desert environment.

            They are only now getting on top of the environment issues now for the Murray/ Darling basin. But it hasn’t help with the locks, barges that stop the floods that flush the river systems out and the states over allocation water.
            My dad comes from Broken Hill and the stories he talks about the water restriction’s at the Hill during the droughts, also the time spent at the Menindee lakes and later down Mildura way after he left the mines to work on the land for a while.

            I think they always knew about the leaching but couldn’t confirm the theory until the droughts in the late 70’s. But Canterbury was always known for mix- cropping until the great Dairy Ponzi Scheme of late which has now causing/ speeding up the environment problems such as nitrate, e-coili etc leaching into the Canterbury aquifers and the over allocation water.

  9. Philg 9

    Dairy farming on the Canterbury plains is an ecological crime. Those responsible should be prosecuted. Until that happens, very little will change.

    • ianmac 9.1

      Of course Philg no one would be held to account. Government policy, Smith, ECan? No way unless the incoming Government can at least put the breaks on.
      John says that the Rakaia River has an Act that when water level drops below a certain point, irrigation must stop. But when they keep taking water after the minimum there is no way to enforce the Act. And some “clever” irrigators found that they could dam the streams just below the meter to give a false inflated depth. Penalty? None.

    • Dairy farming on the Canterbury plains is an ecological crime.

      That could be said of many places where we have farms across the country. Probably worth putting in place serious regulations about it. Get the universities to study the land and recommend what farming should be allowed there or even if farming should be allowed.

      • Exkiwiforces 9.2.1

        The Canterbury Plains are well known for its mix cropping and world known for it Bailey and wheats yields. It was last year or the yr before that a mix cropping farmer smash the world record the highest yield for Bailey and that’s before we even start talking sheep or cattle weights or fine wool.

        Anyone Dairy farming on the Plains apart from domestic use have rocks in their head and as ianmac has said after a quick buck and bugger the environment.

      • greywarshark 9.2.2

        But that’s a command economy isn’t it. The richies and would-bes want to do what they can make money from. It only takes a hint that a law might be brought in and deadheads start holding signs about communism. Farm areas are known to be slow to pick up new ideas, they call it conservative when being polite. If the backward farmers think that serious laws interfering with their next clearance and drainage and fast profit scheme are to be introduced and then enforced, inspected, prosecuted and perhaps jail at the end, there will be Massey’s troopers again and possibly shooting.

        Perhaps there should be National Standards for farmers. And refresher courses every few years so they can keep up with the latest and work out the most profitable ways of farming in a sustainable manner. And they should be klicensed. The courses will be tax deductible if all attended and a diploma achieved with a 75% level to that.

        • Draco T Bastard 9.2.2.1

          But that’s a command economy isn’t it.

          That’s what some would say but it’s becoming increasingly clear that we can’t leave it to ignorant schmucks to do as they like, where they like as it has too much negative affect on everyone else.

  10. ianmac 10

    No one knows the process of water movement underground across from the Waimakariri to the Rakaia. The irrigators should find out because shifting water tables plus dairy effluent are a serious threat to Canterbury and to Christchurch water supply.
    There must be research done about the movement. It is criminal to go ahead in ignorance.

  11. Paul Campbell 11

    So National took away Cantabrian’s right to vote for members of ECAN, they returned some of that under pressure in 2016 – is Labour going to replace the 6 National appointed members on the board? perhaps with elected ones?

    (same question for the SDHB which has only got worse since National dismissed its elected board)

    • ianmac 11.1

      The new Government cannot do everything at once but the whole question of allocation and purity is a high priority. Once the water becomes contaminated by decades of mess filtering down, it will take decades to recover.
      I think aquafiers get replenished by surface percolation while deeper down is under the hard pan is the artesian mountain water. Artesian water used to bubble up above ground level decades ago. An artesian pipe could harness the water pressure to power a ram which pumped about a third of the water up to household holding tanks.
      Now the pressure has gone and artesian water is much much deeper and lower.

    • JC 11.2

      Re ECAN, Yes.

  12. Venezia 12

    This piece needs to shared widely. Especially in the face of the current intense PR media bombing from the dairy lobby we are subjected to.

    • ianmac 12.1

      We would be so pleased if it did go far and wide.

      • Exkiwiforces 12.1.1

        If my memory serves me right a lot of freshwater angling clubs incl the fishing section of the old now defunct Riccarton Working Men’s Club, along the Fish and Game, and some of the Greenie (sorry can’t the groups names) outfits were lobbying ECAN councillor’s before ECAN got the sack through MS Media etc. Come to think about now I think must have quite an effective campaign up to that point. The Greens lady who was on the ECAN broad at the time, might worth try to see what she remembers before they got the sack?

        I was follow a lot of the ECAN sacking stuff and I was pointing a few people to where information was or could be find.

        • ianmac 12.1.1.1

          Back then ECan was sorting out priorities for water access rights. There were legal blocks to some of the decision making rules and ECan sought permission from the Government to enlarge those rules. They were denied.
          One of the first things the Government Commissioners got was access to those needed rules. But then they over-allocated the water rights with the end result of far too much water being taken with disaster on the way. With the rights being given for decades ahead, how can the allocations be modified?

          • Exkiwiforces 12.1.1.1.1

            Probably take al leaf out of book here IRT returning environmental flows back into the Murray/ Darling basin when the federal pollies dragged the states out of the Stone Age IRT allocation of water entitlements. There is going to pain somewhere along the line and really needs to start now before genie gets of the bottle as it’s going to bloody hard to stuff her in the bottle!

            Has there any talk of blue babies being born yet within the CHD? Because that’s a sign of high levels nitrates within water supply.

            My last visit to coes ford left me with a sad feeling, as I use catch eels, flounder further down at the huts and 2-3 lb Brown trout between the huts and coes ford with a cold beer at the world famous rabbit arms hotel in springston afterwards

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