Tom Lambie, Councillor, ECan

Opening address

Tom Lambie opened the forum with a rundown on where we are with managing water quality and quantity to meet community aspirations, highlighting New Zealand’s advantages as an island nation to be able to control what happens on our land.
He discussed how water quality management responsibilities are met under the Resource Management Act and the targets set by the Canterbury Water Management Strategy (CWMS).
The CWMS has a catchment focus through specific zone committees that investigate the water management issues of each community.
To manage water quantity issues in Canterbury, water-use efficiency must be addressed because of the uneven distribution of rainfall across Canterbury.  Water from large rivers must be used efficiently to relieve pressures on groundwater and smaller rivers; this requires more water storage infrastructure.
To manage water quality, locally agreed limits have been set for catchments with rules focusing on good land management practices (these are both regulatory and non-regulatory). Efforts to improve water quality in Canterbury are trying to meet Ngai Tahu values, such as Kaitaikitanga and Mahinga Kai, to improve biodiversity and become water guardians.  This makes a collaborative process crucial.

Professor Sir Tipene O’Regan, Ngai Tahu Research Centre

Stewardship requires more pragmatism and less ideology

Sir Tipene O’Regan discussed the innovation and collaboration needed to undertake stewardship of New Zealand’s water resources. Good management practices of estuaries can bring these areas back from being classified as biologically dead and Ngai Tahu has invested heavily in these projects.
Adding value to water through innovations like water bottling and eel harvesting (currently protected in the RMA) provide a great opportunity nationally to increase New Zealand’s export income. We must think creatively about new ways to use the top two inches of our soils.
This generation will have to oversee a transformative change in the way the future of New Zealand’s primary sector is planned because of the changes to the physical world we are living in. New creative thinking about how we store/consume/use water is required in order to improve water management.

Professor Richard McDowell, Lincoln University

Where have we got to with Our Land & Water Science Challenge for improving water quality in New Zealand

Professor Richard McDowell presented research from Our Land and Water National Science Challenge.
First, there is a need to think holistically about water quality to drive better land and water management practices because of the importance of quality in the products New Zealand exports to global markets. The drivers of the value chain are from the consumer to the producer. A shift from production-driven land management to relating the suitability of land to production is is also needed.
An improvement in water quality has been recorded over the 2004-2013 period, likely due to less sediment, more mitigation strategies being adopted  – fencing, riparian planting, targeted management of critical source areas – and increased education.
A system reset is needed regarding land-use decisions to ensure management practices match the capability of the landscape instead of driving landscapes above their productive capacity. We need to be adapting the use to the land, not the land to the use.

Dr Stefanie Rixecker, ECan

How do we improve the management of this resource – quantity and quality?

Dr Stefanie Rixecker discussed the CWMS and how it deals with externalities through environmental limit setting. Developing this plan involved relationships within and outside the Canterbury region with teams of planners, scientists, community facilitators and rūnanga working together with zone committees on the collaborative planning process.
Sub-regional chapters allow catchment interests and resources to be incorporated into the CWMS, enabling a growing and shared understanding of how to limit nutrient losses and manage environmental impacts.

Dr John Bright, Aqualinc Research

Management of water quantity in Canterbury

Dr John Bright outlined the current state of water quantity management in Canterbury, noting that 62 billion m3 of water flows through the region, 4.4 billion m3 of it used for irrigation. The Canterbury Land and Water Plan (LWRP) sets default minimum flows and allocation limits to manage surface water quantity. Most rivers and streams are largely or fully allocated and 94% of available groundwater is consented.
Under the CWMS there is a shift from taking deep groundwater to using alpine water for irrigation. This water allocation needs to be managed in a way to enable socio-economic gain while limiting changes in a water body’s character. Groundwater allocation limits are static and therefore do not reflect the responsive nature of the system.
A dynamic allocation system that varies between spring-fed and ground-water systems may better account for recharge risk.
Planting too many trees in the catchment headwaters will risk reducing recharge.
Increased farm storage potentially could aid in freeing up allocated but unused water, allowing farmers to transfer allocations among themselves through a short-term allocation system.

Dr Rebecca Stott, NIWA

Define water quality – Swimmable rivers and what organisms can live in these rivers?

Dr Rebecca Stott opened her discussion by disclosing what swimming means to her – fun. Personal rejuvenation through contact with water goes beyond swimming to kai harvesting, angling, kayaking and so on.
Rebecca then outlined the main factors influencing swimmability: flow; aesthetics; hazards (physical safety); water clarity and health risk (pathogens and toxins).
Given the many factors that affect the swimmability of a body of water, there is still a way to go to build an understanding of why and when water is safe for swimming as water samples miss the daily fluxes in water quality targets.
There is a growing interest in community-based freshwater monitoring as a form of citizen science. This can lead to better understanding and greater public engagement in fresh water management.

Bob Bower, Wallbridge Gilbert Aztec

Integrated water management using the tools of Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR): Hekeao/Hinds Catchment, Canterbury

Bob Bower discussed Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR) and its application in the Hinds/Hekeao area of Canterbury.
Capturing clean surface water and diverting it to surface storage and below ground to recharge and replenish aquifer flows will enable better ground water management.  But while adjusting the spatial distribution of water above and below ground will reduce the pressure on ground water systems, we still cannot over-allocate these systems.
The goals of this MAR programme are to sustainably manage ground water storage, enhance ground water quality and protect drinking water supplies.

Mark Fitzpatrick, Ravensdown Environmental

The role of agribusiness to improve the uptake and adoption of technology to improve water quality

Mark Fitzpatrick opened his presentation outlining the problem the industry is facing regarding its social license to operate. Agribusiness needs to tease apart regulations and help farmers on a case-by-case basis to ensure the sector is as resilient as possible to change.&
nbsp; Risks associated with farm environmental impact regulations are limiting farm conversion and/or intensification; cap on production potential from environmental limits; and competition for land with other sectors. Agribusiness must aim to collectively advise farmers toward minimising impacts in a financially sustainable way.

Dr David Chapman, DairyNZ

Current management options for dairy farms for reducing nitrate leaching

Dr David Chapman outlined management options for dairy farms to reduce nitrate leaching. First, the strategic management of the nitrogen cycle aims to reduce inputs such as fertilizer, clover fixation and feed to increase milk and meat outputs.
Diminishing returns in production with increasing inputs highlights the tension between production and the environment.
Tactical management of the nitrogen cycle is achieved through improving irrigation efficiency, reducing N fertilizer use, introducing diverse pasture species, using low N feed and managing critical source areas. These mitigations need to be specific to each farm system.

Professor Keith Cameron, Lincoln University

Reducing environmental impacts of dairy farming in the future

Professor Keith Cameron outlined ways to reduce the environmental impact of dairy farming. He referenced studies which show that pasture type does impact N leaching over winter: Italian Ryegrass (winter active) leaches less nitrate than Tall Fescue. Another pasture species that mitigates N loss is Plantain, which appears to dilute the concentration of urinary N by reducing conversion of NH4, to NO3, resulting in less N being available to be leached.
Catch crops over winter and standoff pads were also highlighted as mitigations.
An effluent management system, Cleartech (developed by Lincoln University and Ravensdown) recycles water from the effluent pond to be used as yard wash. This results in increased pond storage, reduced water use on farm and reduced risk of N and P pollution due to inadequate storage.

Andrew Curtis, Irrigation New Zealand

Irrigation in Canterbury for agricultural productivity and environmental sustainability

Andrew Curtis discussed the drivers of change for irrigation in Canterbury for agricultural productivity. The benefits of irrigation are increased land for productivity, employment, diversity of business and strong rural communities.
Consumer trends in favour of traceable and connected food also gel with production system trends and a shift to achieve sustainable development goals.
A big risk globally is water scarcity. The availability of water and its management will require collaborative community solutions.
The community wants confidence that minimum standards are in place and action is being taken against those who are not achieving them.
Globally, irrigation is shifting to a more efficient micro-spray infrastructure and precision agriculture but there is a need for transparent and accessible information to be made available to the public.

Dr Steve Thomas, Plant & Food Research

In tune with the environment – the pathway to more efficient on-farm irrigation.

Dr Steve Thomas discussed how irrigation should be in tune with the environment through informed decision-making. Questions to be addressed include: how much water does a plant use? Does water use change over the season? How should paddock/farm scale variability be managed?
These questions inform where, when and how much water to apply.
Crop-monitoring techniques such as infra-red satellite measurement of crop canopy temperature and detailed soil moisture monitoring can be used to effectively manage irrigation scheduling.

Craige MacKenzie, Arable and Dairy Farmer

Precision agriculture for improved water management

Craige MacKenzie discussed how water allocation, use and quality together need to be addressed.
Running a 200ha arable farm and 330ha dairy operation, he understands the importance of getting the basics right for irrigation management.
Precision agriculture addresses the sector’s biggest challenges of water availability, water quality, nutrient limits and climate change.
Soil mapping using electro-magnetic survey techniques enables GIS site-specific detail allowing targeted irrigation management based on the variable water holding capacity of each soil type. The future of farming through precision agriculture offers the capability to reduce inputs with greater value outputs ensuring environmental and financial sustainability.