The economic, environmental and social benefits of irrigation are widely recognised.
IrrigationNZ points out it also reduces fire risk:
The growth of on-farm storage ponds, particularly in Canterbury, has benefited rural fire-fighting crews in New Zealand by providing additional sources of fire-fighting water, says IrrigationNZ Chief Executive Andrew Curtis.
“These ponds hold thousands of litres of water and farmers and irrigation schemes are the first to make water available when a rural fire starts,” says Mr Curtis.
Irrigation schemes throughout the country have also initiated fire-fighting measures of their own. North Otago Irrigation Company, for example, introduced 20 fire hydrants into its irrigation scheme allowing fire-fighting trucks from the Waitaki Rural Fire Authority to refill within seconds.
Irrigation also lessens the risk of fire by maintaining green buffer zones in rural areas that previously were primarily dry land. Towns and cities surrounded by irrigation such as Christchurch, Gisborne, Napier, Martinborough, Ashburton, Invercargill and Blenheim have benefited.
“Green grass doesn’t burn. Irrigation produces vegetation that is less susceptible to fire and ignites more slowly. Irrigating farmers are closely monitoring their fields at this time of the year as they apply water so they’re often the ones who spot early fires.”
“Irrigation can’t remove fire risk completely but the growth of irrigation infrastructure and schemes throughout New Zealand has definitely made fire-fighting water more accessible,” says Mr Curtis.
Before we had irrigation, North Otago was usually tinder dry in January.
Since we’ve been able to water the land it’s green and the fire danger is far less as a result of that.