Kiwi water expertise 'impressive'

TRACY NEAL
Last updated 13:01 28/11/2012

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New Zealand's high calibre of research and innovation into fresh water resources could be valuable to other countries, a leading British scientific programme manager says.

Stuart Kirk, head of evidence strategy (water availability and quality programme) for Britain's Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs, said new methods of water management being developed here were "very impressive", and something he was keen to see implemented in Britain.

Mr Kirk is one of three international keynote speakers in Nelson for the New Zealand Hydrological Society conference.

The week-long conference has attracted more than 200 water experts from around the world and New Zealand.

Mr Kirk cited the Waterwheel model of collaborative water management, allocation and quality protection as an example of knowledge that could be shared overseas.

The Waterwheel project is a partnership between Aqualinc, Landcare Research, AgResearch and Tipa Associates which focuses on setting up collaborative approaches for managing water allocation and protecting water quality.

Nelson MP Nick Smith said in opening the conference yesterday that Nelson was a microcosm of all the issues around water resource and use faced by areas throughout New Zealand.

He said Nelson, as a major grower and exporter of primary produce and as an area with a burgeoning aquaculture industry, was hugely dependent on a reliable supply of good quality water.

The former Minister for the Environment and initiator of the Land and Water Forum, who has a special interest in freshwater resources, said New Zealand was "richly blessed" with fresh water, but for a long time there had been a casual and even neglectful approach to its management.

Dr Smith said it was critical during any roll-out of planned reforms that a balance was met between good economic and environmental outcomes. He added that it was a "huge challenge" translating good science into information that was readily understood by the public.

Hydrological society president and Tasman District Council water scientist Joseph Thomas said this year's conference theme, Water, Know Your Limits, was appropriate considering the requirements of the national policy statement on fresh water.

Mr Thomas said the conference was an opportunity for all to learn, including local water scientists who had the opportunity to hear from world experts.

Keynote speaker Adam Hutchinson from Orange County, California, who specialises in groundwater extraction systems, said it was hoped that recharge systems like that which had been used in California for decades could be introduced to New Zealand.

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"We've been doing this for 75 years and we've been able to double the amount of water we're able to extract," Mr Hutchinson said.

He said there was "tremendous potential" for growing water supply, but caution was needed.

The conference's opening keynote speaker, vice-president of the Korean Water Resources Association, Professor Joong Hoon Kim, said issues around water resources in his country related to the large number of "very big" projects for which optimum technology had not been available, and which the public were beginning to add their voice to.

- The Nelson Mail

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