Thursday, December 14, 2006

Summer is a great time to be in or near water but apparently it's becoming scarce. Or is it?

Last summer my kayak club crew couldn't find much to paddle on, yet the groundsman at the Basin would have been shitting himself a few weeks ago trying to prepare a wicket for tomorrow's cricket test.

Kapiti Coast is as dry as the proverbial in the height of summer, Canterbury has it's well publicised water issues, yet we all remember the plight of those in Westport last summer. It's either feast or famine.

So the question becomes one of managing the water resource - including looking at demand. I came across quite a handy lay persons guide to how much water an individual may consume. My jaw dropped. A pint of beer = 300 pints of water. Worse: a glass of wine = 960 glasses of water. The season to be jolly indeed.

I plan to get my hands on a copy of Sam Mahon's The Water Thieves for a holiday read. His is a story of agricultural water use in my homeland, Canterbury. Canterbury does have an allocation problem.

We may soon get to a situation where pressure is exerted on the price of our "watered" products. Our dairy exports are massive earners, yet their competitiveness depends substantially on continued irrigation in Canterbury (and other areas). We can be referred to as traders in virtual water - where countries with relative water scarcity import products of high water intensity. It makes absolute sense. For New Zealand, only so long as our water resource remains viable.

In many parts of the world the pressures are more complex. In China for example, water intensive production has tended to be where the money is, not the water. The Saudi government issues subsidies to alfalfa growers and California ensures water gets to their rice farmers. Market theory goes out the window when subsidies fly in.

Does all this mean our problems are tinsy? We're not likely to be at war for water, but we've got issues. While they're being worked on, enjoy some free fresh festive water.

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