Drought un­der cli­mate change — what do we Ki­wis need to know?

Katikati Advertiser - - Your Community Voice -

A new re­port by the Deep South Chal­lenge, Chang­ing with our Cli­mate, ex­plores what we need to know now to adapt to the drought con­di­tions likely un­der fu­ture cli­mate change.

Drought al­ready af­fects a wide range of ac­tiv­i­ties in Aotearoa, in­clud­ing ur­ban wa­ter, pri­mary pro­duc­tion and elec­tric­ity gen­er­a­tion. It also has sig­nif­i­cant cul­tural ef­fects across com­mu­ni­ties. Trea­sury es­ti­mated re­cently that droughts rank num­ber one for cli­mate change-re­lated costs.

Although New Zealand has his­tor­i­cally been “wa­ter-rich”, the Drought and Cli­mate Change Adap­ta­tion: Im­pacts and Pro­jec­tions re­port sug­gests that New Zealand is not well­pre­pared to cope with a fu­ture in­volv­ing more drought in some ar­eas. Fu­ture drought may well have the sin­gle most sig­nif­i­cant fu­ture im­pact on the New Zealand econ­omy.

The re­port takes a peo­ple­cen­tred view of the im­pacts of droughts and iden­ti­fies sev­eral top pri­or­ity re­search ques­tions, one of which has al­ready de­vel­oped into a re­search project led by Wageed Kamish from Tonkin & Tay­lor.

The project seeks to un­der­stand the fu­ture of drought for New Zealand as our cli­mate changes. It’s a big task, but one Kamish thinks it is achiev­able.

“We ac­knowl­edge that one project may not pro­vide all of the an­swers. How­ever, by adopt­ing a sim­pler method­ol­ogy, we’ll have wider spa­tial cov­er­age, while still be­ing able to quan­tify the risk-of-fail­ure of wa­ter sup­ply sys­tems in New Zealand. NIWA, our project part­ner, has al­ready com­pleted a con­sid­er­able amount of work on cli­mate change pro­jec­tions and th­ese will pro­vide a good plat­form from which to start.”

“Although it is true that farm­ers and ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties nor­mally ex­pe­ri­ence the full ef­fects of a drought, we don’t have to look much fur­ther than the re­cent Day Zero sce­nario in Cape Town (South Africa) to re­alise that ur­ban ar­eas can also be af­fected by droughts,” Kamish said.

As cli­mate changes into the fu­ture, wa­ter sup­ply sys­tems will have to be adapted ac­cord­ingly, which may in­clude new sources, new tech­nolo­gies, in­creased stor­age ca­pac­ity and bet­ter man­age­ment of wa­ter us­age, Kamish said.

“In par­al­lel, we need to care­fully man­age the qual­ity of ex­ist­ing and po­ten­tial sources now, so as not to jeop­ar­dise them for fu­ture use.

“The pri­mary key to this is that we adapt our wa­ter sys­tems well enough in ad­vance to avoid a Day Zero sce­nario. Adap­ta­tion may take sev­eral years, so in many cases the plan­ning process needs to start right now.”

The project will also work closely with stake­hold­ers, par­tic­u­larly re­gional coun­cils.

“Hav­ing an ap­pro­pri­ately con­sti­tuted stake­holder ref­er­ence group will also help to pro­duce use­ful out­comes for re­gional coun­cils, who will ben­e­fit the most from this re­search,” Kamish ex­plained.

The Drought and Cli­mate Change Adap­ta­tion: Im­pacts and Pro­jec­tions re­port was pro­duced as a re­sult of a Deep South Di­a­logue, run by Motu Eco­nomic and Pub­lic Pol­icy Re­search. The Di­a­logue brought to­gether key re­searchers and sec­tor rep­re­sen­ta­tives to map cur­rent knowl­edge about how drought will im­pact New Zealand as our cli­mate changes, and to iden­tify crit­i­cal knowl­edge gaps that must be filled if we are to suc­cess­fully adapt to our chang­ing cli­mate.

For ex­am­ple, the re­port sug­gests we need to bet­ter un­der­stand the likely in­ci­dence of multi-re­gional drought, and the likely na­tion­wide changes in drought in­ci­dence. It sug­gests we need to ex­plore how fu­ture droughts, in the con­text of a chang­ing cli­mate, might af­fect fu­ture wa­ter sup­ply and de­mand (par­tic­u­larly for the lo­cal food pro­duc­tion sec­tor, which com­petes for wa­ter with other users).

The re­port states we need to know more about New Zealand’s level of risk in re­la­tion to drink­ing wa­ter avail­abil­ity (both in ur­ban and ru­ral ar­eas), as well as about the im­pact of drought on vul­ner­a­ble com­mu­ni­ties, for ex­am­ple, how drought might af­fect labour pat­terns or im­pact res­i­den­tial house prices or land val­ues. It sug­gests we need more re­search into how chang­ing drought pat­terns might af­fect en­ergy pro­duc­tion and con­sump­tion. The re­port can be read on the Motu web­site.

A new re­port sug­gests that New Zealand is not well-pre­pared to cope with a fu­ture in­volv­ing more drought.

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