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Water under pressure

Written By: - Date published: 8:12 am, June 15th, 2013 - 38 comments
Categories: capitalism, climate change, Conservation, democracy under attack, greens, john key, labour, local government, Mining, sustainability, water - Tags: , ,

Water is increasingly becoming a precious resource, under threat from pollution, over use, population growth, ill-judged prioritisation of the drive for commercial profits, and lax environmental pressures.  The Guardian environment correspondent, Fiona Harvey warns that the Global majority faces water shortages ‘within two generations‘.

The majority of the 9 billion people on Earth will live with severe pressure on fresh water within the space of two generations as climate change, pollution and over-use of resources take their toll, 500 scientists have warned.

The world’s water systems would soon reach a tipping point that “could trigger irreversible change with potentially catastrophic consequences”, more than 500 water experts warned on Friday as they called on governments to start conserving the vital resource. They said it was wrong to see fresh water as an endlessly renewable resource because, in many cases, people are pumping out water from underground sources at such a rate that it will not be restored within several lifetimes.

On the face of it, temperate Aotearoa-New Zealand would seem to be well serviced with adequate water supplies for the future.  Nevertheless our water supplies are increasingly coming under pressure.   Te Ara provides this information:

The earth’s surface is dominated by water, but only about 2.5% of the estimated 1.4 billion cubic kilometres is fresh water. Most fresh water (68.9%) is stored as snow and ice in glaciers and icecaps, while most of the rest (30.8%) is groundwater. Only 0.3% of fresh water is in rivers and lakes.

New Zealand’s water resources

New Zealand has abundant water resources in snowfields, glaciers, groundwater aquifers, rivers and lakes. It ranks in the top 10 countries in the world for both quantity and quality of water.

Despite this abundance, the country is facing growing challenges in managing its water. In the 2000s, demand for water was increasing dramatically as a result of urban expansion and agriculture. Water supplies were not always in the right places at the right times to meet these demands.

When demand exceeds supply – as is happening increasingly in drier, eastern parts of New Zealand – competition for water is fierce. These demands also peak during summer, when the water level is generally at its lowest. Climate change makes management of water resources even more complicated, as rainfall and snowfall patterns vary.

The Ministry of the Environment recognises that management of fresh water needs to be improved.  They state that the Resource Management Act is the primary means to ensure this happens.  Yet, John Key’s government is weakening the RMA both the Labour and Green Parties have expressed serious concern at the way this will damage the environment and water supplies .  In May, a Green Party Press Release said:

“National’s proposed changes weaken the RMA and are anti-environment,” Green Party environment spokesperson, Eugenie Sage said today.

… warning by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment that the changes would turn the RMA into an act which promoted economic development ahead of the environment.

“Part 2 of the RMA is the heart and engine room of the Act,” Ms Sage said.

“It defines sustainable management – meeting human needs while safeguarding the natural environment.

“National’s proposed changes to Part 2 of the RMA are about making it easier for mining, drilling and irrigation interests. They reflect the anti-environment thrust of the Government’s Business Growth Agenda with its focus on resource exploitation,” Ms Sage said.

“There is no substantive evidence that the RMA obstructs development.”

At an RMA seminar in May, Labour MP Maryan Street said:

Greetings to you all and thank you for coming to this Labour-hosted seminar, the first in a series of three which I am hosting over the next few months. The second will be held in July in Christchurch and will focus on the vexed issue of water quality and management. The third will be in Auckland in August and will consider the built environment.

This seminar has focussed on the concerted agenda which the government has to make protection of the environment second to economic development. They talk about balancing the economy and the environment. In my view, that is now an anachronistic way of looking at the New Zealand situation.

Of concern also is the way Key’s government, is trying to over-ride local council plans in conjunction with their weakening of the RMA.  Greg Presland of Waitakere West has expressed concern over the way Nick Smith has engaged in the Government-Auckland Council “accord” in bad faith, while weakening environmental protections.

I have mixed feelings about a private business, like Opus, being one of the ways expertise is being provided to tackle growing pressures on the water supply.  I guess it depends on how they operate, and to what extent they are driven by the profit motive. I’m also not keen on the emphasis Maryan Street puts on economic growth, rather than on a sustainable economy.  However, I am pleased to see that both the Green and Labour Parties are working on this issue, critiquing the regressive RMA changes, and developing alternative, more environment friendly policies.


38 comments on “Water under pressure”

  1. tc 2

    Councils have been guilty of doing no planning and focsing on events and icons to egos rather than ensuring basic water facilities are in order and have capacity.

    Te awamutu cant issue any new buildng consents as its water services are maxed out, this is life in shonkeys rural driven recovery. What a joke these clowns are.

  2. Ad 3

    Would it not be possible to have a catchment-by-catchment conversation about the balance between land and water use, as per the Land and Water Forum? Guy Salmon is no fool and knows how to sustain complex dialogue.

    While our public services remain dependent upon the taxes from intensive agriculture, we are going to need water used ever-harder. New Zealand needs binding compacts between central and regional government (another others), that sustains our land, water and productivity for the long term. Guy could do it.

    • rosy 3.1

      Guy Salmon is no fool and knows how to sustain complex dialogue

      Take a look at the Ecologic Foundation’s Ecologic’s submission on the NZ Government’s Water Programme of Action (March 2005) taking note of the expectations of market mechanisms and see what you think about his focus.


      I’m sort of unsure about the approach.

      I’m quite keen for someone/some people with more knowledge in this field to give an opinion, actually.

    • Rogue Trooper 3.2

      that other Guy, Nuthan, would not even engage with Rachel’s inter-view on the implications of the intensification necessary to underpin these new sheds to support 7% year-on-year primary exports growth. Wait until dairy exports to China become a greater ‘diplomatic’ lever; may see more than spilt / dumped milk then.

  3. Rich the other 4

    Just more crap from the green/labour dreamers.
    The rma has been an obstacle to our country for far to long.
    Economic benefit has to be considered , it seems bizarre that it wasn’t in the past
    Another great move by the Nats.
    We have plenty of water , it just needs to be managed.
    Bring on the irrigation schemes and manage the water, boost agriculture and generate more wealth.

    Sorry lefty’s but arnt the NATS going well ,the latest poll shows what many suspect , they will govern alone at the next election.

    The green/labour partnership is destroying labour (slow learners)

    • Paul 4.1

      A lovely constructive contribution without any insulting or aggressive language.
      Thanks for your helpful part in this debate.

      • farmboy 4.1.1

        Hey what rich says is true,and he is taking it easy on you fuckn idiots.Thank your lucky stars you have us farmers driving this country, except for a few muppets that needed a handout a few months ago,we are indeed the bees knees.

        • McFlock

          yeah, you’ll change your tune when you’re the one with shite weather or rabbits.

          • farmboy

            we had the shite weather mate just like every 4 or 5 years it is nothing new

        • Draco T Bastard

          Thank your lucky stars you have us farmers driving this country, except for a few muppets that needed a handout a few months ago,we are indeed the bees knees.

          No, you’re the destruction of this country.

    • Colonial Viper 4.2

      I dare you to let your kids go swimming in some of the NZ streams which 30 years ago were pristine but which are now not much more than dairy farm sewers.

      • farmboy 4.2.1

        Go have a cry into one of them colonial,that might freshn them up.

        • Colonial Viper

          The other thing is that roughly half these farmers have massive mortgages around their necks: its the Aussie debt slavery which is forcing them to destroy our natural environment while Aussie shareholders make the real money

          • farmboy

            no it is people borrowing too much to buy out the neighbour and expecting the payout to stay up and the price of feed (if you need it) to stay even.Nothing destroys the natural enviroment like a city colonial why do you think you cant eat shellfish from auckland, all your dirty chemicals that you use to wash your cars your sewage system cant even handle a storm all your shit gets washed out into harbour,funny how they never test the water just out of town.Hamilton lake has the most polluted water around not a farm in sight

            • vto

              Hey dopey farmboy is back.

              The bludging farmers.

              Need city taxpayer welfare when the regular drought (which isn’t even a fucking drought ffs) comes along every 5 years.

              Need city taxpayer welfare to pay for the irrigation schemes because they don’t stack up on their own.

              Need to put in swimming pools because they shit up their own rivers (how many rivers around southwest Waikato can you drink from farmboy? Eh? ha ha ha.. fuckwit).

              Can’t get what they want for irrigation using normal business practices so get this corrupt government to sack a regional council and steal it.

              Hide all their income and wealth in capital gains so they don’t pay their share in tax. Instead bludge off city taxpayers money to pay for their roads, hospitals and schools. And coppers and everything else.

              Are so thick that they think that unless money in brought into NZ there is no economy or money – ha ha ha ha, dopey shits (I wonder how they apply that to the entire world economy – does the world’s money come from the moon or something ha ha.)

              fuck off farmboy

    • Draco T Bastard 4.3

      Economic benefit has to be considered ,

      Actually, what we’re seeing from National is the exact opposite. Economics isn’t being considered at all. What they’re considering is money and nothing else. From what you’ve just said, that’s all you’re considering as well.

      Bring on the irrigation schemes and manage the water, boost agriculture and generate more wealth.

      That’s just it, there isn’t any more water and farming doesn’t generate enough wealth to offset the damage it does.

    • u think 4.4

      For Rich the other-how arrogant and conceited and ignorant can u be ?Can you see past your nose or is it the same problem as the PM has, its not about now but in a short time down the track ,10yrs we will be like India if we follow this right wing govt of irresponsibility.The RMA is probably the only defence we have against rampant capitalism which in the long run is imperfect like everything else the human race does ,have u observed the amount of rubbish people make unnecessarily everyday?

  4. BLiP 5

    Don’t worry – Nestlé has the answer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEFL8ElXHaU

  5. Chooky 6

    Just to stir up the dust a bit and have a scratch around .Check out this blog site…

    .’Why are we having earthquakes in Christchurch?’


    • weka 6.1

      I think you will have to be more specific with your linking Chooky.

      • BLiP 6.1.1

        Hmmm . . .

        . . . The recent earthquakes we have been experiencing in Christchurch are potentially due to a reduction of water in underground aquifers. Because there is less water, this causes a reduction of pressure in the aquifers which then causes them to collapse or shift.

        To explain this idea, I’ve made some diagrams. Here is an example of the water table under the Canterbury planes (obviously depth not a linear scale). At some point the pressure of the water water and sediments must have an equilibrium . . .

        . . . sounds plausible, I guess. Is that lprent chap about? I think he’s got some sort of scientific type edumakation.

  6. Draco T Bastard 7

    When demand exceeds supply – as is happening increasingly in drier, eastern parts of New Zealand – competition for water is fierce. These demands also peak during summer, when the water level is generally at its lowest. Climate change makes management of water resources even more complicated, as rainfall and snowfall patterns vary.

    Yep, there was a very good reason why the previous Labour led government put in place standards for shower heads. Unfortunately, the idiots didn’t like being told that they had to restrict themselves so that we could continue having the living standard that we’ve become accustomed to. These same people probably even think that they understand economics and yet they failed to understand the economics of a limited water supply while use is increasing.

    • Rogue Trooper 8.1

      cow cockies must be counting on the glaciers continuing to melt / retract; anyway, from any products I buy which come in bottles larger than 1l in capacity, I clean the bottles and store water in them out of the sunlight, with a little Bleach at hand. One never knows.

  7. Viv K 9

    Using fresh water for fracking is yet another stupid waste of this precious resource.

    • karol 10.1

      From the discussion under the linked article, it looks like it’s debatable that changes to the water table caused/or contributed to the Christchurch earthquakes. Do you have a view on it, Chooky?

  8. Chooky 11

    Yes I think it is seriously up for debate…overseas experts should be called in to debate it….the implications are huge.

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