Dry rivers show need for water storage

November 20, 2018

It’s not yet officially summer but two Hawkes Bay Rivers have already dried up:

Some businesses and farmers in Central Hawke’s Bay may start rationing water as parts of the Waipawa and Tukituki rivers are already bone dry.

It comes as figures obtained by RNZ show the top six water consent holders in the district are using more than half of all allocated water from the Ruataniwha Aquifer and rivers.

Surface water user group chair Alastair Haliburton said around 40 consent holders were considering rationing and rostering their water supplies this summer because of concerns that river levels were so low.

His own company, Medallion Pet Foods, which employed 14 people in Waipukurau, could go bust if it does not get enough water.

“If we don’t get water we can’t manufacture and the doors close,” Mr Haliburton said.

Other businesses would be affected by the rationing, he said.

“It means that some crops probably won’t be planted, or yields will be lower, livestock productivity is going to be lower … essentially it means a scaling back of commercial activity.” . . 

Ongaonga farmer Alistair Setter was also worried about getting enough water for his crops this summer.

A section of the Waipawa River near his home dried up in mid-October.

“On a dry year it might dry up around Christmas time but it’s never done this before,” he said. . . 

Over allocation of water from aquifers is widespread.

Rationing is one solution, water storage is another.

Building dams to hold water when it’s not needed to release it when it is needed has both environmental and economic benefits.

Water from dams can be used to maintain minimum flows to protect and enhance water life when there’s insufficient rain. The water can also be used for manufacturing and irrigation.

Irrigation also helps recharge aquifers.

Forecasts warn of more hotter, dryer summers. Central and local governments ought to be planning for that and more water storage should be part of their plans.

Building dams is expensive but so too are the economic, environmental and social costs of dry rivers and water rationing.

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