Saturday 30 March 2013

Water shortages in Wellington, NZ

The following article just says that Wellingtonians are saving water without actually providing any real information as to how serious the problem actually is. For instance, is the region using emergency sources of water or not.
The second, earlier article gets closer to discussing the real issues.

I have lived in Wellington for 30 years and never known conditions like this. Conditions are very dry.

At a time when we would normally be seeing cooler weather we are experiencing warmer-than- normal weather with strong, drying winds that are atypical for autumn.

We have had temperatures of 20C in the house in the middle of the night, which is admittedly not hot for a balmy summer night, but getting up to twice the night-time temperatures for this time of the year.

We have been seeing signs of die-back in trees.


Water usage hits lowest point since ban

Water usage fell to its lowest point yesterday since water restrictions came into place earlier this month.

29 March, 2013

Greater Wellington Regional Council confirmed water use across the region reached 119 million litres, 11ML below the daily target of 130ML.

If water usage remained at or below the daily target, tapping into the storage lake at Te Marua would not be required until mid-April.

Four days of rain are forecast from next Thursday April 4, which would be central to the council deciding whether water restrictions could be eased back.

The current ban on outdoor water use will likely not be lifted until the region receives significant rain for a few days.

The second lake at Te Marua was 100 per cent full and could be tapped if necessary, but the council has requested residents to keep up water saving initiatives while the dry weather continues.

Greater Wellington said it is critical that for now, Wellingtonians keep up their water conservation.

They said the water situation was precarious but rivers had not fallen as fast as predicted last week.

Water supply marketing team leader Andrew Samuel said the storage lake at Te Marua was full, at about 1900 million litres - about two weeks supply - and ready to be used if needed.

However, while river levels were much lower than normal, they were not as low as forecasts had suggested, which meant the city supply could still be drawn.

An outdoor water ban in the city was enforced on March 16, and remains in place.

Continued focus on saving water has seen the city meet the 130 million litres per day target set by GWRC for much of the last two weeks.

Greater Wellington Regional Council Chair Fran Wilde says the public reaction to the water situation has been great.

"It's a huge result, although we're not out of the woods yet."

The regions' mayors met for the greater Wellington mayoral forum in Upper Hutt yesterday, and were briefed on the situation.

Chairman and Upper Hutt Mayor Wayne Guppy said staff at all councils were in contact with each other daily.

Water savings during the drought had been ''outstanding'', he said.

''The target's been set at 125 litres per person per day, and we're effectively reaching the targets,'' he said.

In the two days after rainfall on Sunday 17 and Monday 17 March, water consumption went over the target but had fallen back as the drought continued, he said.

Meanwhile, Matiu/Somes Island in Wellington Harbour has re-opened, after being closed from 12pm each day due to fire risk.

While the fire risk was still high, the recent rain, the dropping air temperatures and an increase in morning dew has allowed the island to reopen, the Conservation Department said

Wellington water crisis: Drought risk driven by capitalism

by Ian Anderson

23 March, 2013

In mid-March 2013, Wellington City Council announced a water crisis. Nigel Wilson, chair of the region’s committee in charge of water supply, stated that Wellington, Porirua and the Hutt Valley had only 20 days of water left. From March 16th, the city announced a ban on outdoor water use by residents, with a $20,000 fine for violating – commercial users faced no restrictions.

This follows a regular pattern whereby the council focuses on curbing residential water usage, whether through attempts at residential metering or outright ban in this case. By implication, the council blames residents for any water shortages.

Non-commercial” and domestic usage

The council generally estimates “non-commercial” usage at around 350 litres per person per day, around half of usage overall. However, “non-commercial” usage includes Council usage, theft, and leaks. Leaks are unaccounted in bulk purchases; in fact around 20% of water in Wellington is unaccounted, compared to a national average of about 10-15%.
Accurate estimates for domestic consumption can be found not in the council figures, but in the nationwide Quality of Life reports. Most recently, the Quality of Life Report ’07 found Wellington domestic consumption between 2001 and 2007 to be on average 170 litres per person per day, on par with other cities. This is less than half of the Wellington City Council’s estimates for “non-commercial” use.

By conflating various uses and misuses under “non-commercial,” this manipulation of statistics gives the misleading impression that residents consume the majority of water.

Climate change and drought

The North Island is suffering from its worst drought in 70 years. At the time of writing Northland, Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Hawke's Bay are officially in drought, with more likely to follow.

In an opinion piece for South Island paper The Press, Physical Geography and Earth Sciences Professor James Renwick suggests that the risk of drought in Aotearoa/NZ is on the rise. Renwick reports that rising global temperatures, combined with lower soil moisture, could double the risk of drought by the end of the century.

Although Renwick does not explicitly state this, sticking strictly to his geographical field, it’s well-established that greenhouse gas emissions are driving global warming. The underlying causes of increasing drought risk are not residential water use, or even commercial water use, but global warming driven by capitalist industry. Agriculture makes up the bulk of our emissions in Aotearoa/NZ; in a grim irony, it’s also the sector most affected by drought.

Solutions: Socialism or barbarism

Discussion of water conservation often focuses on showers, taps, toilets, residential use. Wellington City Council has previously proposed residential water meters, coupled with a user-pays system. User pays for residential water has triggered community resistance in Auckland and elsewhere, because it restricts access to water based on income. Fightback opposes ‘conservation’ efforts which punish poor families and residents.

Even focusing solely on residential usage, a democratically planned socialist approach could meet immediate needs and curb wastage. Installing rainwater tanks can conserve up to 40% of potable water, without significantly limiting real consumption. Fixing pipe leaks could save up to 20% of usage. Investing in these options is not profitable like user-pays, but would be more effective for conservation.

There are short-term options available for conserving water, both residential and commercial. However, the underlying causes of increasing drought risk are agricultural, industrial, economic. Ultimately, to challenge ecologically destructive practices, we must organise to take democratic control.

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