Big Irrigation a blooming bad idea for NZ’s rivers
Friday, 26 Jan - Greenpeace is warning there’ll be many more toxic algal blooms and rivers drying up around New Zealand if controversial
irrigation schemes are allowed to go ahead.
Earlier this week, swimmers and pet owners were warned away from Canterbury’s Hurunui river due to a toxic algal bloom
(1). Further south in Otago, swimmers found little to no water even left in several rivers (2).
Greenpeace campaigner, Genevieve Toop, says it is every New Zealander’s right to swim in clean rivers.
"Big irrigation schemes, which drive expansion of intensive dairying, will lead to more dry riverbeds and more toxic
algal blooms," she says.
"Big Irrigation is a double whammy for our rivers. It sucks water out of them and uses it, primarily to drive intensive
dairying, which in return refills those same rivers with pollution from too many cows"
New Zealand’s dairy herd produces over 150 million litres of nitrogen rich urine each day, some of which flows into
rivers and seeps into groundwater (3). This excess nitrogen in our rivers and lakes stimulates algal growth.
"The only serious solution to dairy pollution is fewer cows, which is why the new Government must stick to its promise
to cut irrigation funding," says Toop.
The new Government has promised it will no longer support Big Irrigation, however reports indicate that Crown Irrigation
Investments has not yet been directed to stop writing cheques to proposed new irrigation projects (4).
"Our rivers are already under major stress thanks to existing irrigation and intensive dairying. We urgently need the
Government to put their promises into effect and end public funding for irrigation," says Toop
The CEO of Landcorp, the country’s largest farmer, recently wrote an op-ed advocating for fewer cows and a transition to
more sustainable farming (5).
"It’s not only the environment sector advocating for a transformation of our farming, but Landcorp - New Zealand’s
biggest farmer - is the latest voice to join the growing chorus of New Zealander’s advocating for fewer cows," says
2) The Lindis and Cardrona rivers have dried up in some sections, and the Taieri River and Kye Burn rivers have dropped
to record low levels. https://www.odt.co.nz/regions/central-otago/land-beside-dry-river-irrigated-elsewhere
3) A dairy cow typically excretes 25 litres of urine per day. This is 9000 litres per cow per year. Urination is how a
cow excretes much of her surplus dietary Nitrogen. Of the N cows consume while grazing, 65-75% is excreted, mostly in
the form of urea in urine - Dairy NZ Factsheet here: https://www.dairynz.co.nz/media/255954/7-25_Standing_cows_off_pasture_2012.pdf