Keep it clean

Keep it Clean this was the message from Bruce Wills in his address to Federated Farmers 2013 National Council:

. . . It will not come as a surprise that Federated Farmers biggest area of work and advocacy continues to be water. How we use it more efficiently whilst maintaining and improving its quality.

Most of our towns and cities store water to ensure their residents don’t run out of this valuable resource during the dry summer months. We need to get better at applying this same logic to our rural areas through water storage. The big challenge is how we can continue to grow farming but to do this with less impact upon the environment.

Why is storing water for urban use accepted but storing it for agriculture attracts so much opposition?

. . . This water debate is complex and it will take time.

The farming community must remain a leader in this debate. I want to acknowledge Ian and our respected water policy team for the good work they continue to do in this area.

Water does not instantly degrade but reflects cumulative actions over a period of time. Those actions may be farm related, they may be industrial and in some instances, they may be natural.

The Otago Regional Council found seagulls were to blame for low water quality in the Kakanui River.

Getting good science is the starting point for the rational discussion we sometimes haven’t held when it comes to water. In two days time, Dr Jan Wright, Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, will release her much anticipated water quality report.

Parts of this report, frankly, will not be kind to agriculture but to improve we all need to understand what the problem is, what the science is telling us and then move to sensible solutions. We need to ask our communities what their aspirations are for water and what they are prepared to pay economically, socially and culturally.

As farmers, we have perhaps been guilty in the past of farming in denial about the nutrients we lose from our farms. This has changed thanks to the Land & Water Forum process. Diffuse nitrogen loss to water, as opposed to the direct loss you typically see in political cartoons, represents our biggest challenge but also, our biggest opportunity.

There is far greater recognition from farmers of the impact their practices can have on water and far greater effort into reducing it.

I have commented previously about my recent learning’s from World Water Week in Sweden. Compared to the rest of the world, New Zealand is in a lucky and privileged position when it comes to both the quantity and quality of our water.

It worries me that as a country we risk beating ourselves up around our water concerns. Of course we can and must do better but we do need to keep things in perspective.

The world is a hungry and growing place with an amazing 2.3 billion more stomachs due to join the human race between now and the year 2050. It is the sale of our food and primary commodities which helps to pay much of this country’s bills. Farmers share the aspiration to live in a prosperous and beautiful country with bountiful clean water for all.

This is the challenge of our time and I can confidently report that we are making steady progress. . .

Comparing our water standards with those in other countries isn’t an excuse to accept less than optimal practices here or rest on our laurels where we’re getting it right.

Discussion on what needs to be improved and how to do it must be based on science and an understanding of what can be done and what that will cost.

21 Responses to Keep it clean

  1. Mr E says:

    I fully support Bruce on this view.


  2. Armchair Critic says:

    With regard specifically to your question about the resistance to storage of water for rural use, compared to the acceptability of storing water for urban use, there are some fundamental differences.
    One difference relates to the purpose. Farmers want water storage to make more profit. Cities need water to prevent mass outbreaks of disease. Giving these equivalence requires us to believe human life is no more valuable than money.
    Another difference relate to effect. Urban water supply schemes are almost always matched with a wastewater collection scheme. Rural irrigation schemes are almost never matched with a scheme to collect and treat the water and its contaminants after it is used; indeed a few farmers believe the word for such a scheme is “river” and most of the rest think it is impractical.
    Perhaps the other difference is that for urban areas the construction of water storage does not require a land use change, where for irrigation schemes the landuse change is the primary method of achieving the objective of the scheme (higher productivity resulting in higher profits for anyone left wondering).
    I’m not opposed to water storage in principle, but I am left wondering how the current discussion reflects on our collective values, and how poorly thought through the case for irrigation schemes is, at present.


  3. Mr E says:

    “Farmers want water storage for profit”. Have you been on a farm AC? Does water equal money only? Do farmers turn on the tap and money runs out? No?
    Does water enable farmers to better feed stock during droughts improving animal welfare?
    Perhaps improving irrigation allows farmers to allow 2 children to take over the farm not just one? Ergo allowing for life to exist in the country.
    Does water enable stock water to improve, improving animal welfare?
    Does water enable soil developing processes through crops and pastures to build up nutrient capturing soil? No? I doubt farmers think of this?

    Fraudulent profit driven people they are. Sitting there with their money tills pulling the handle every time Bruce says something waiting for the Cha-ching. Farmers- Humph.

    Do towns folk not wash cars? irrigate lawns? gardens? Clean windows? I thought they did. I do or should I say did. I must stop doing it, it sounds like it is not the norm. Or are you just ignoring these things because they don’t suit your argument?

    Urban water matched with waste water? What? How ridiculous.
    Townies pipe water they wash their car with, straight out to the nearest water way. How is this better than a farmers tile, novaflow drain? At least a farmers drain uses soil as a filter.

    The waste water schemes still put waste out into the environment, heavy metals onto land, nutrients into river. To think it does not is blatant ignorance.


  4. robertguyton says:

    “The big challenge is how we can continue to grow farming but to do this with less impact upon the environment.”

    Let’s see what the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment says about this today, Mr E. I welcome your opinion on her findings.


  5. robertguyton says:

    “Do towns folk not wash cars? irrigate lawns? gardens? Clean windows? I thought they did. I do or should I say did.”
    In answer to your question, “should I stop?”, Mr E, I say, yes.
    Wash your car on the lawn, as ES recommends (and I have done with my Drains are for Rain project, begun 20+ years ago).
    Don’t irrigate lawns, ever. Replace your drought-susceptible lawn with garden that doesn’t require watering (mulch, plant selection).
    Never water your garden. If you are doing that, you are doing it wrong. Only seeds/seedlings need water and very little is required.
    Clean your windows with wet and dry newspaper. It’s the most efficient, effective way to clean glass.
    Mr E, you laud the efforts farmers go to to reduce their negative environmental effects but seem oblivious to what townies do. If you yourself are a townie and are wasting water, as your comment indicates you are, you need to smarten-up your act.


  6. robertguyton says:

    “Townies pipe water they wash their car with, straight out to the nearest water way. How is this better than a farmers tile, novaflow drain? At least a farmers drain uses soil as a filter.”
    I’d like to take you to task over this claim also, and will when I’ve finished my various morning tasks. Straight out to the nearest waterway indeed! Where have you been for the past 20 years?


  7. Mr E says:

    I’m an open book Robert. Bad news or good. I look at it objectively. That’s who I am that’s what I do.
    You’ll know these things by now. Even though I’m a Mr E to you.

    Bruce is describing a band waggon. And it’s a band waggon I support. I’ll even push that waggon and I have been for a while. Actually I’m hoping you’ll climb on too. Your not too much weight for me to bear.

    Have you heard phrase “sustainable intensification”. It’s echoing around the hills of Europe and has been for a while now. Bruce is whistling the same tune, bouncing it off our own mountainous ranges but is still has the sound of music to me.


  8. Mr E says:

    Crickey Robert- Has ES survey Townies to see how many are acting in such an irresponsible manner? I can’t believe you have highlighted this so well to me.

    To answer you question in my recent past I’ve been doing the following:
    Bucket and truck wash for windows and hose, although ive just bought a karcher electic window cleaner which has almost no water use.
    Clean my vehicle some times on the driveway some times on the lawn. Depends on how dirty it is. Real dirty is damaging to my mower. Real dirty gets swept up from driveway and biffed on the garden. Infact I have often swept up the neighbours cleanings before they get to the storm drain, for my garden. I don’t like seeing them go down there. Then again I am an environmentalist.

    A garden that doesn’t require watering? Mines fertilised with recycled organic compost from the ES neighbour. Saw dust that doesn’t hold water very well. Water is a must. Even now that it has mineralised down to a reasonable soil, weeks like this cause a good wilt without water.
    And my lawn has gravels about a foot down and although I dug up much of what I could, the missus says a lawn is a must for kids to play on. Happy wife happy life.

    I appreciate this comment of yours Robert. Some ideas I had not thought about in great depth. Ever thought about considering less farmer bashing and perhaps turning your eye to townies? I think you could have a big influence. Town rivers are worse than pastoral rivers. And perhaps not bashing. But friendly reminders or ideas. I am not to keen on the bashing concept.

    Driving around town on a Sunday I see a lot of the problems you have highlighted.


  9. Gravedodger says:

    In my experience urban dwellers are very much less inclined to regard water as a resource with limitation on availability at strategic times.
    Here in Akaroa we are very proscribed with summer supply.
    Very few houses have storage of more than perhaps a 100 liters in a ceiling tank so on say January 2nd with a population maybe 25 times our base, mains pressure can collapse completely in parts of the old borough zone.
    If every extension, rebuild, deck addition included a say 20 000 liter plastic tank cost around $3 000 inc pump to augment domestic use for boat washing, garden watering etc, supply crisis could be avoided completely.


  10. Mr E says:

    Sure, Come pick me up Robert. I’ll sit on the handle bars. We’ll go dumpy doo to the nearest sewage outlet. Or how about we potter along the roads of Otatara where storm water pours straight in the ditches that kids play around. Ditches made of porous materials, sand gravels, silts.
    Keen? Can you bear my load?


  11. Armchair Critic says:

    Oh dear Mr E, you are joking, right?
    Farming is a business. The main purpose of a business is to make a profit. It’s not a big step to admit that the desire for irrigation schemes is driven, ultimately, by the pursuit of profit.
    You can disprove my assertion that urban areas with water supplies also have wastewater collection systems by providing examples. How many NZ towns can you name that have one, but not the other. I’d recommend you look at towns with populations of over a few thousand, because otherwise you’ll take forever. Hint – there are some. However, I generalised deliberately to cover this situation.
    Now, I’ll tell you what else I know. Washing cars on lawns, and washing windows, is not a major source of urban pollution. Rural runoff of nutrients is a much bigger issue, comparatively. About 80% of water supplied in urban areas is collected and treated, in the larger cities to a very high standard. In rural areas almost none (but not quite, some is collected) is collected and the treatment is, well, as little as is required and sometimes less. Crafar farms, for example. I understand why you would like to believe the “we’re not that much worse” line, it’s more complex than that.


  12. Mr E says:

    Good point GD
    Many farmers collect rain water from roofs. Something townies avoid because of cost. Plus their ever present need to make profits (townies Humph)

    Jokes aside, I think in Invercargill part of the reason it is avoided is the coal dust and acid raining from the skies. Something farmers don’t have too much problem with.

    Farmers Humph.


  13. robertguyton says:

    “sustainable intensification”

    Has it happened yet, Mr E? Will Jan Wright’s report say, yes, the industry has intensified, but that has remained sustainable, do you think? Surely, the proof of the pudding is in the eating”. What do the results reveal, Mr E?


  14. Mr E says:

    I’ve commented about this on another page. Seek and you will find.


  15. robertguyton says:

    Mr E

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t most farmers, upon their retirement, move into a town?

    And become your much-denigrated ‘townie’?


  16. robertguyton says:

    Open book, written by anonymous.

    Contradiction in terms there, Mr E.


  17. Mr E says:

    Yet urban rivers are considered worse than pastoral.
    Treated AC does not mean nutrients removed. Is putting heavy metals on land good? Is that pollution? I think so.

    Sure a business, but also a livelihood, a home, a hobby. You seem to think that all farmers do is count the dollars as they come it. I can tell you, you are wrong. Many farmers do things that are not money orientated. Some because their farm is their ‘baby’ their home and they are proud of it.
    Some of those things don’t fit the ‘good business’ model at all.

    I’d suggest you should get out more. Face up to some farmers. I’m sure you will see the error of your ways pretty quickly.


  18. Mr E says:

    Sure and some are shocked at the polluting ways of townies. Their concrete jungles and smoggy atmospheres. Townies humph.


  19. Mr E says:

    Whose anonymous? I am Mr E! And for the record I like my name.


  20. robertguyton says:

    Do they manage their humanure somehow differently, Mr E?
    Sounds a little hypocritical, doesn’t it, blaming townies then becoming one.


  21. robertguyton says:

    Open book, fake name.


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