Friday, December 12, 2014

Who Owns The Rain?


Well apparently in Oregon State of the US, not the land owner whose land it falls on.

Gary Harrington 64, owns 170 acres and has constructed three ponds that accumulate and store around three million liters of snow melt and rain runoff. One of the ponds has been stocked with large mouth bass and the whole resource is available for fire fighting.
My understanding is Harrington did not dam waterways in his water conservation scheme.
Poor old Gary is or has recently spent 30 days in the clink for continuing his storage of water falling on his acreage.

What Gary Harrington in Oregon State has done, is common across NZ farmland where stock water is a restraint on production. There are countless Dams across NZ pastoral lands and the most efficient and longer lasting are built to collect rainfall from very small catchments and not from damming waterways.

When we built our house here in Paradise the roof  was designed for collection of 'gods gift' and we have enjoyed it for 11 years only filtering that which we drink from the tap and make ice from.
House design and planting precludes rats possums or other animals from defecating on the collection zone but birds happily shit wherever they so desire.

A mate who was involved in supplying Akaroa with its highly contaminated chlorine  solution where the diluted chlorine has stream water added to expand supplies, was horrified that we were exposing ourselves to such risk but agreed my scotch tasted so much better than his did when water was added.

I have owned five different rural properties and one of the first criteria on each purchase was running water but that is never sufficient without some storage and or reticulation augmentation.
Storing water for irrigation is normally of very doubtful economic sustainability unless the costs can be shared for advantages of scale but in the current climate any form of subsidy is nearly always going to be denied due to large doses of ignorance.

Lake Opuha, Lake Chrichton and Lake Hood are three storage ponds in Canterbury, providing recreation opportunities from such storage and the nearly $100 million scheme under the sponsorship of Gary Rooney at Arundel harvesting excess river flows from the adjacent Rangatata will have significant social benefits when fully operational.

A trained mind announced recently that the Waitaki would reach the limit of that rivers ability to support further irrigation in the near future.
I say total bollocks to that, they have only scratched the surface of what that system could deliver by way of improved  management and further storage. Lakes Tekapo, Pukaki and Ohau all control tributaries in the upper Waitaki and then Benmore, Avimore and the Waitaki Dams all generate power and control the flow on its journey to the sea as captured in the song by The Plainsmen.
There are an array of measures to improve that scheme to enhance the irrigation outcomes.
Many cumecs of water flow west to the Tasman where there are many more days of excess than insufficiency in the West Coast river systems.

Across the Canterbury Plains, starting towards the end of  the 1930s depression, water was taken from the Rangatata and gravity fed  by races (Rangitata Diversion Race) to the Rakaia where unused water generated electricity at Highbank at the end of the RDR. A further generation capacity came in the 1980s with the commissioning of the Montalto plant as the scheme neared its completion.

Far too many see irrigation as benefiting a few "greedy farmers", when the truth is they are forced to make substantial additional investment to access the benefits of that water and there is enormous community benefit alongside such storage schemes.
Many are now oblivious to the fight over the flooding of the Cromwell Gorge and the alluvial river flats of Lowburn, all today's citizens see is a wonderful recreational asset in the form of Lake Dunstan.

Canturbury Regional Council has a carrot and stick approach to converting the ultra cheap but very inefficient water use from borderdykes that over water the start of the dyke and barely water the extremity so popular in early irrigation schemes and continued into the early 1980s with schemes including the Amuri plains, to Pivots and other spray systems that accurately deliver as near to optimum water application as possible using current technology. Their conversion plan promotes conversion by imposing stormwater   runoff financial costs on the dykes in times of higher rainfall that can be ignored by degradation of the dykes and investment in spray models ie pivots, travelers, K-lines etc. The Mainrace systems still deliver water for pumping.
The biggest advantages for converting come in more "water days" and greatly increased efficient use of less water over larger areas.

Water is the new "oil" and those who can collect and control it whether private or public will see enormous benefits, environmental, social and economic.
Unless the treehugging numpties and their intellectually challenged supporters gain the legislature seats that control the law and then Oregon State's treatment of Gary will seem quaintly rustic.


The Veteran said...

GD ... well, the Greens will certainly have a view on this I suspect ... something along the lines of that rain is a public resource and by arrogating it to yourself you are depriving the great unwashed of their heritage and, once again, demonstrating the ugly face of capitalism.

Expect to pay for the 'privilege' but only if you can demonstrate that your roof is a no poop zone for birds ... sigh

Adolf Fiinkensein said...

I'm not absolutely certain but I think here is South Australia, a farmer needs a resource consent to construct a stock water dam and these consents are not easily given. Kind of a defacto control of private catchments.

Paulus said...

A number of years ago I worked in Bermuda where the America's Cup is to be sailed - the only water we had was collected off roofs as the coral rock has no water.
(as of interest it is 33 square miles of rock with no land appropriate for cows or anywhere to grow anything).
So why worry about water ?