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Spotlight on regional water use this World Water Day

18 Mar 2019, 1:27 PM

A dry summer means many Northlanders will have been giving a little extra thought about the region’s freshwater resources and the important role these play in our lives in recent weeks.

World Water Day is observed on 22 March every year and aims to focus attention on the importance of freshwater and advocate for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.

As this year’s World Water Day approaches, the Northland Regional Council is urging people to think about their water use generally, including the need to plan for future climactic changes and to use water efficiently year-round.

“With Northland still feeling the effects of a very dry summer as we move into Autumn (and hopefully some wetter weather) the need to conserve water is something many people would have been thinking about – and factoring into their daily lives – recently,” council chairman Bill Shepherd says.

However, Chairman Shepherd says water resources should be considered and used as efficiently as possible year-round, especially given likely changes in climate in the years to come.

“The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) has released a climate change summary report which really reinforces this point.”

Council Natural Resources Monitoring Manager Jason Donaghy says while there’s some uncertainty when modelling the impact of climate change on flow, rainfall and extreme events in Northland, “scientists have indicated that temperature itself has less uncertainty around it; it’s trending upwards.”

Both Chairman Shepherd and Mr Donaghy says this means Northland’s water users need to be proactively planning for a warmer climate.

They say regardless of whether Northlanders are relying on water to meet their individual use or in a business context, they should be using water as efficiently as possible to avoid water wastage and/or loss and this means they should also be measuring their water use.

“It’s difficult to manage something if you’re not measuring it,” Mr Donaghy says.

Chairman Shepherd says as far as water consumption is concerned, measuring use is a ‘win-win’ for people as not only does it give them more knowledge, it can also reduce their costs.

Mr Donaghy says given likely climatic changes, Northlanders would be wise to plan now for an increase in the frequency of dry periods to ensure security of supply to meet business/personal needs.

“One way to increase regional resilience in that regard is by collecting and storing more water when it’s abundant.”

While obviously water was vital and required year-round to sustain the region’s environment, as far as meeting human needs was concerned, much of the unharvested rain which fell over wetter periods was effectively just going to waste.

“Typically, Northland enjoys a reasonable rainfall over the course of the year, but overall as a region we still don’t do the best job of collecting it during the wetter months when it’s plentiful and setting it aside for use in the drier months.”

Mr Donaghy says the Northland Regional Council’s website contains a range of publicly-accessible climate change and water-related information.

Information about climate change research and reports that relate specifically to Northland (and which summarises the approach council is taking to reduce greenhouse emissions and increasing the region’s readiness for climate change impacts) is available via: www.nrc.govt.nz/climatechange

“People interested in finding out more about regional water resources, including rainfall data and associated reports, should visit www.nrc.govt.nz/riversandrain

Drought conditions in Northland

Drought conditions in Northland.

The same spot just two months later

Green pasture in Northland.

This sort of seasonal variation – which is only expected to worsen with climate change – is prompting a call for Northlanders to use water more efficiently year-round.