© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2019

Farmers not solely to blame for water pollution

Ella Stokes
irrigation 33
Pollution shouldn't be blamed on dairy farming alone says Irrigation NZ. Newswise

Irrigation New Zealand says the state of our rivers isn't just down to dirty dairy farming, low rainfall and drought are major factors.

Chief executive Andrew Curtis said balance was needed in discussions about water quality and ways to prevent it. 

The Selwyn River water levels are low and Coes Ford has a high risk warning due to toxic algae. 

Curtis said natural factors had contributed to the state of the Selwyn River. Canterbury had experienced drought for the last three years accompanied with significantly low winter rainfall. This had forced water aquifer levels to drop and river flows to slow. 

Water quality was closely related to flow, Curtis said, explaining that decreased flow meant nutrients were not diluted, which increased water pollution. 

He said the Selwyn River around Coes Ford had run dry in the past. It was unfair to point the finger at dairy farmers.

"Although practices on some dairy farms need to be improved, there are a number of dairy farmers who are performing exceptionally well and it's about how we move everybody to become a really good performer." 

Curtis said every farm now had to have an environmental plan which included water use and effluent monitoring, and was audited on an annual basis. This was key to picking up any issues causing pollution, and would go a long way to solving any problems. 

He noted water pollution was not confined to rural areas. Urban areas had problems too. 

"Pointing fingers and blaming people wasn't solving the issue," said Curtis

"If people want to swim in the river and have pristine water quality all year round even the natural environment is not going to deliver us that, so we need to think of other interventions."