Magazine article New Zealand Management

Major Best Use Solution to Water 'Shortage' Proposed

Magazine article New Zealand Management

Major Best Use Solution to Water 'Shortage' Proposed

Article excerpt

The Business Council has this year published the findings of a two-year $300,000 research project into New Zealand's fresh water problems.

The changes it suggests are now the subject of efforts to achieve a pan-sector agreement to ensure effective action is taken.

In four years the water in most major catchments in New Zealand will be fully allocated.

A "gold rush" for water is underway. No water means no new business, causing significant loss for the country.

However, between 20% and 80% of water allocated for commercial use (including municipal water supply) in some waterways is not being used at any one point in time.

The Business Council proposes a policy to allow the easier transfer of water from one commercial user to another.

This could add an extra $180 to $300 million in output to the economy each year.

It proposes integrated catchment management plans set the volume of water needed to protect the environment, and meet recreational, municipal and other needs--and set what's available for commercial use.

Commercial users would then have a proportional share of the water actually available for commercial use, rather than the fixed volume as under current consents.

The report also proposes a cap on the contaminants allowed into waterways, and allowing these discharge rights to be transferred between water users.

The proposals include providing better security for community use of water (environment, recreation, customary rights) and funding for groups which advocate for those interests.

The Business Council has worked with 19 other organisations, and consulted with a further 14, in a collaborative project to produce what it calls the "Best Use Solution".

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It says a failure to act and full allocation will see a costly spread of rationing, queuing and disputes over what remains of the resource. None of this is necessary.

We have just 10 years to effect change and avert these problems. The solution offers a new starting point for practical policy improvement.

To illustrate the critical role water plays in running many businesses, the report quotes international research showing it takes 40 litres of water to produce a slice of bread, 70 litres to grow an apple, 140 litres for a cup of coffee, and 2,700 litres to make a cotton shirt.

It reports New Zealanders are concerned over water:

* 68% believe fresh water quality is worse or much worse than 10 years ago

* Seven out of 10 believe there is a water shortage or will be within 10 years, and

* 64% perceive agriculture and horticultural run off as the main cause of freshwater pollution. …

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