Save in floods to use when needed

Quote of the day:

. . . “It is gutting to see electricity dams spilling water that only runs out to sea when our economy is hostage to the vagaries of summer rainfall. We need to make a conscious decision to trap and store rainfall while we have heaps of it, for use when we don’t.

“As it stands right now, we seem to be okay as we approach mid-summer. If we had commercial water storage in place rather than tied up in planning, soil moisture would become less of an economic lottery,” . . Katie Milne, Federated Farmers Adverse Events spokesperson.

Floods play a role in river health.

But they don’t need all the flood water that has been flowing down them in the last few days to provide a good clean out.

Storing some water at peak flows to provide for irrigation and recreation later makes environmental, economic and social sense.

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20 Responses to Save in floods to use when needed

  1. robertguyton says:

    ““It is gutting to see electricity dams spilling water that only runs out to sea…”

    Shows how limited Ms Milne’s understanding of river, wetland and aquifer processes is.
    Interesting that she uses the phrase “gutting”. Many New zealanders find that a very violent term, with its accompanying images of knives, spilled intestines, blood and death.

  2. Andrei says:

    Storing some water at peak flows to provide for irrigation and recreation later makes environmental, economic and social sense.

    Store the water? Where and how?

  3. homepaddock says:

    Build a dam – we have a couple of our farm (pump from underground in winter, use for irrigation in summer). The Opuha irrigation scheme in South Canterbury built a much bigger dam, created a lake which is great for fishing, swimming, sailing, boating, swimming – and is used for irrigation.

  4. Andrei says:

    It’s economics Ele coupled with the biblical seven years of plenty followed by the seven years of famine.

    The dams we have have exceeded their capacity and thus are spilling the excess, the dams we have dams that pay for themselves by generationing electricity and irrigating farms in normal times but how to pay for the new dams that will help smooth the vagaries in rainfall from year to year so our existing dams never have to spill and never run dry?

    Our world is uncertain and our engineering compromises to make the best of it with the resources we have

  5. homepaddock says:

    I’m not suggesting we try to get enough dams so there’s never a need to spill. But there is potential for more dams than we have.

  6. Roger says:

    One way would be have dams/canals that are above the usual river flow level and build along side or adjacent to the river track. These dams fill from the overflow when the river peaks and is stored and used. The water stored would otherwise have gone into the sea as part of the flood.

  7. Richard says:

    RG just showing his lack of knowledge about how other counties more ancient than ours have adapted to take advantage of their water resources much more limited than ours .Just go to Hong Kong and see even today the fields of rice growing on the hills.
    RG: Clearly you have not travelled. Perhaps we can arrange a Churchill Fellowship for you to study water and economics. Nearer to home you might like to have a look at the South Canterbury schemes to open your eyes.
    There are various other small water schemes – privately funded that provide electricity as well.

  8. Richard says:

    Add to the above: If there is an economic way to bore through the southern divide to provide water for the east coast of the SI – the government, power companies and farmers should consider it seriously

  9. TraceyS says:

    My husband suggested using excess generation capacity when demand is low (like now) to pump the flood-water up to reservoirs where in peak demand time it can be released to generate electricity to meet that demand and irrigate at the same time. He also commented that this would be expensive to establish.

    Sometimes ideas like this seem like pipe-dreams, but yesterday I read an article in a recent issue of New Scientist which provided the following example of just this;

    “At the Dinorwig power station in the UK…water is pumped up into a reservoir on top of the Elidir Fawr mountain during periods of low demand. When energy demand spikes, the water is released down the mountain to drive turbines…”

    and from the same article;

    “If every wind and solar farm had its own mountain reservior, it might be possible to make wind energy a 24/7 resource.”

    Apparently, “pumped storage” is very efficient – up to 80%. And perhaps it might support a move towards more investment into renewable energy production. The greenies need to get with the programme and realise that on the way to achieving renewable energy, there may be some compromises.

    With ample water, wind, and mountains, New Zealand should be the ideal place for the these types of innovations. But our regulatory system would make such projects a nightmare from start to finish.

  10. robertguyton says:

    Pumped storage is a great idea. I’d use the windmills to drive the pumps. Water stored at height is energy stored. The regulatory system is there to protect the environment and the environment needs to be protected if we are to enjoy long-term productivity, rather than short-term gain.

  11. TraceyS says:

    “The regulatory system is there to protect the environment…” I could not agree more. That’s what it SHOULD be for. But the regulatory system (as it is) can also get hijacked away from real environmental issues, and by that I mean effects on air, soil, water, and other physical resources and becomes a process of negotiation over both personal and commercial interests that often has more to do with egos, agendas, and the psychology of those involved than it does the environment.

    We may explore using pumped storage on our farm (using windmills to drive the pumps) as it has all the right elements. The dam is really just a huge environmentally-friendly battery, but without all of the toxic ingredients and waste of rare earth elements contained in chemical batteries. Wise use of natural features such as valleys, gravity, exposure and such is more efficient than the completely engineered options which are not inherently efficient and need further engineering to make them efficient.

    At the moment what holds us back, personally, is the thought of entering the process of obtaining consents. Experimentation is economically risky enough without all that jazz. Experimentation by small-players should be encouraged because there is much to be learned from such projects. But a small project is going to have all the same hoops and costs as a larger commercial project and that holds back innovation. For example, we would still need all the expensive expert evidence etc.

    There needs to be alternative regulatory processes for small-scale innovations that can produce forward-thinking prototypes for larger scale projects. Especially where there is obviously a low impact on the physical environment and ample opportunity for successful mitigation of effects. Millions of dollars are currently wasted on repetitive, regurgitated evidence from experts and lawyers and consultants each time the consents process is completed which adds no new knowledge with each iteration.

    This money could be better spent on innovating and protecting the environment. It’s just such a shame that good projects are held back because people are afraid to invite that big regulatory monkey to latch onto their neck, knowing that they will only have to pay endless amounts of cash to get it off. The environment is worse off when they finally do as there is less money left over for environmental innovation.

    Our attitude in NZ of trying to please everyone who claims to have an interest is our downfall. This will never get the right sorts of projects moving ahead as it does nothing to promote the attitude changes that are needed. It just promotes pig-headedness and wheel-spinning and is in my view, a crime against the environment.

  12. robertguyton says:

    “For example, we would still need all the expensive expert evidence etc.”

    You want to forge ahead without the expert evidence?
    Sounds irresponsible and likely to result in a much increased likeliood of harm to the environment.

  13. robertguyton says:

    The “Shadbolt Proposal”!
    Richard!
    Drilling the Alps. Hope I’m on the Hearing Comittee :-)

  14. robertguyton says:

    I’ve a very keen interest in and some knowledge of groundwater management in Asian countries, Richard. Ther is a significant difference between those and the rivers systems under discussion here, is that they are managing … groundwater, not surface water. Apologies for not being a world traveller, but I’m not entirely stupid.

  15. TraceyS says:

    Sometimes, Robert, common-sense could take the place of expert evidence, especially for small-scale projects or those with an overriding environmental aim. You know, the process has become so desirable to avoid that plenty of small-projects just go ahead under the radar anyway. Now that’s even more risky isn’t it? In recent discussions with Fish & Game (who liked our ideas) the advice was not to plan anything that required consent because it’s too hard and too expensive – especially if you’re not doing the project with immediate commercial gain in mind because you’ve got no way to pay for it. Do you think it’s good for the environment for the process to favour big outfits with deep pockets or alternatively gung-ho rogues who go ahead and do it for as long as they can get away with it? I don’t.

  16. TraceyS says:

    There is a gap between achieving this sort of backyard innovation (http://www.odt.co.nz/your-town/dunedin/41143/life-grid-one-pioneering-family039s-experience) and something a bit more up-scale which has crossed the threshold for needing consents. But the intentions and objectives may be little different. Maybe to power five houses, irrigate a farm or orchard, and power a small processing operation, for example. And no, I’m not necessarily considering a dairy farm :)

    I’m not saying that consents aren’t needed, they are, but the process for getting them should be different for certain projects. A good example is this project; http://www.blueskinpower.co.nz/.

    An idea for councils would be to store expert evidence from previous hearings in a format that is easily searchable such as a database. And then conduct the equivalent of a literature review to assess effects while saving money for the applicant. But they are too scared of looking biased even if the project is a really positive one.

    The above project is not the same as a big flash lifestyle subdivision for rich people, but it will still have to go through the same process. That will hold good ideas back. The regulatory decks need to be cleared for projects that promise good environmental intentions and outcomes. Without this, they will not flourish (or even make it to the table) and short-term money-making ventures will dominate. Think about it. Of course there are risks, but what is the potential gain?

    Or can you not accept that there are people willing to spend their time innovating and improving the environment and their money DIRECTLY on projects with environmental benefits? I can tell you that there certainly are, but they are a dying breed. No wonder!

  17. robertguyton says:

    If the proposed development is of a scale that required consent, it must carry equivalent risk, if the consent parameters have been set correctly. Commonsense..yes…farmers not so long ago used to release their dairy-shed effluent straight to the nearest stream, it was commonly done, commonly accepted, commonsense really…

  18. robertguyton says:

    “That will hold good ideas back” and plenty of bad ones too. When thinking about restraints like the RMA, I’m reminded of Shakespeare and the brilliance of his work, so severely constarined as it was, by having to be written in sonnet form. Out of restriction comes highly-tuned invention.

  19. TraceyS says:

    “If the proposed development is of a scale that required consent, it must carry equivalent risk…” Must it? That seems like a wild exaggeration!

    “Commonsense..yes…farmers not so long ago used to release their dairy-shed effluent straight to the nearest stream, it was commonly done, commonly accepted, commonsense really…” No that’s not common sense. I was talking about projects with good environmental intentions/outcomes. That’s when common sense could prevail. I see you are short of it today.

  20. TraceyS says:

    There are other ways in which the bad ones could be held back. Conditions, enforcement etc.

    “I’m reminded of Shakespeare and the brilliance of his work…”

    And how many Shakespeares was there Robert? Do you wish for an equivalent paucity of brilliant projects?

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