The release of ‘Our fresh water 2017’ is a call to action for all New Zealanders, says IrrigationNZ CEO, Andrew Curtis. The report measures fresh water quality, quantity and flows, biodiversity and cultural health.
“This report highlights the impact we all have on fresh water resources. I have no doubt it will provoke further finger-pointing at the rural sector, but the reality is, all human activities are placing pressure on our fresh water environments and we must all do our bit to limit and reverse those impacts. ‘Our fresh water 2017’ is a call to action for communities to work together to implement sustainable solutions.”
Mr Curtis said that whilst the report contained some good data on the impacts of certain activities in specific catchments, it was constrained by a lack of consistent data and knowledge gaps – particularly around irrigation. While the report shows 51% of the water allocated by councils is for irrigation, it was not able to determine how much of the allocated water was actually used because data quality and the completeness of records on actual takes is inconsistent.
“We know that in many cases, actual water use is less than consented use. Despite the fact that irrigators have been collecting water measurement data for a number of years, none of it was captured in this report because there is currently no standard measurement, reporting tools or consensus amongst regional councils that allow us to report actual water use data over time.
Many of the report’s findings were based on ‘limited data’, which makes it difficult to track where our environmental efforts are working and having a positive impact. Without good data, backed up by science, we will continue to struggle to implement solutions.”
Curtis says that since 2011, irrigation schemes and irrigating farmers have collectively invested more than $1.8 billion in environmental improvement. This includes infrastructure upgrades, water use efficiency measures, technology, nutrient management and monitoring.
“Farmers and growers share the same environmental values as most New Zealanders – they want to protect fresh water resources to sustain their businesses, families and communities. Yet it seems, certainly from this report, that little of the data they are measuring and supplying is being used to inform policy, practice or environmental outcomes. We know that where farmers and growers are focussing their efforts, they are making a difference. This report does reflect this to a degree, but it is very constrained due to incomplete or inconsistent data.”
The solution, says Curtis, is stronger leadership from Government and councils so that the knowledge already being gathered can be used to determine the true impacts of activities and then shape solutions at a national, regional, catchment and community level.
“The value of this report is that it gives us a ‘starting point’ to work from. Once we have a more complete data set and improved reporting, I have no doubt that the next report will show a truer picture of the impact our activities have on waterways and the solutions needed to effectively manage and improve those impacts.”
Andrew Curtis, IrrigationNZ CEO – 0274 966 314
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