Editorial: Scarcity is the new reality for water resources
EDITORIAL: The political and economic realities of water as a resource have been well and truly brought home to the people of Taranaki in the past 18 months.
It's hard to believe really, for so long high rainfall has been a hallmark of the province - one of several reasons for its huge agricultural, and particularly dairying, industries.
It's true, we still get plenty of rain, and year on year, it's uncanny watching how the rainfall rates regulate themselves to about the same level.
Two factors are likely to influence change over time though and they're starting to play out - at a national as well as regional level.
* Gareth Morgan wants to charge bottlers and farmers for water
* Controversial West Coast water export scheme granted resource consent
* Battle to sell off West Coast water bubbles to the surface
* New Plymouth councillors wary of compulsory water meters
* What to do about New Plymouth's excessive water use
As the population grows, albeit slowly, the demand for treated water for urban residents grows.
At the same time as demand for water grows, climate change will impact on water supply.
We're already watching our councils grapple with this, most notably in New Plymouth.
Last summer was the first time a blanket water restriction was placed over the district. It was somewhat amusing, but nonetheless unfortunate, that the lesson about taking care with water consumption, was washed away in one of the wettest summers in memory.
Nevertheless the writing is already on the wall and it will be no great surprise if water metering is introduced (the infrastructure for this is already being rolled out) and/or major new water infrastructure is planned for the district in the coming years.
In other parts of the country too, the dry up may be even greater, and regulations put in place to deal with that scenario will impact here at home.
Nationally, it was no surprise to see someone bring to the table the idea of charging for the commercial use of water - including water bottlers and farmers.
Gareth Morgan's election policy, coming after strong debate over water consents to take and export New Zealand water for free, may split opinion, but it will bring the idea even further into the public's consciousness.
If a Chinese commercial water bottler can't take New Zealand water for free, why should a Chinese commercial dairy operation? And if a Chinese dairy operation has to pay, why shouldn't everyone?
There are complex arguments both for and against Morgan's proposal but it's hard to argue against the most basic laws of economics - supply and demand and scarcity.
Water is an increasingly scarce resource, and when a resource is scarce it's not too hard to sniff out the money nearby.
Just as our urban residents are likely to have to start coughing up more and more for the water from their taps, so our farmers and industries should expect the days of free water falling from the skies and bubbling up from the ground beneath them to come to an end.