Better way to manage water
From bottling for export to the increasing strain on waterways generally, the swirl around fresh water is gathering pace.
For Waikato Regional Council, these issues aren’t new but we are part of the search for new solutions through our freshwater strategy.
Examples of problems the strategy is designed to address include water take allocation limits are being hit in places. For example, major rivers – the Waikato and the Piako – are now effectively classed as fully allocated for water take purposes.
Applications for surface water from the Waikato catchment now exceed what’s available during the summer months of November to April. The Piako is actually over-allocated. But there’s less pressure in other areas.
Bacteria levels exceed safe swimming standards at many freshwater sites around the region.
The Waikato economy is demanding more than its freshwater resource can sustain. There is a need to better understand what limits exist, and where, to prevent environmental and economic harm, as well as social and cultural impacts.
Currently, managing the allocation and quality of freshwater in the Waikato relies on regulations enforced by the regional council. Those regulations are based on old legis- lation from a time when water was more plentiful and overallocation of water wasn’t an issue. Water take consent charges are relatively low-level, relating to council processing and monitoring activities.
We think a better mix of incentives, rules and education could be more effective in improving the way water is used and protected in our region.
The strategy’s suggestions include potentially using volumebased pricing for water takes.
Suitable pricing tools – whatever their final shape – could help us better manage demand and water quality by providing an incentive for more efficient and conservative use of resources. It could also help address community concerns that the value of water is not fully appreciated.
Volume-based pricing and a system where polluters bear a greater financial responsibility towards mitigating their impacts could help avoid the current situation when the general public can effectively end up subsiding those who are adversely contributing to water quality and scarcity issues.
Pricing could be implemented in a way that promotes the harvesting and storage of water at times of the year when it is plentiful, encourages higher value land uses and stimulates land use changes of benefit to the environment.
Evergreen buckthorn started life as an ornamental plant in New Zealand but now is considered a pest plant.