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New Zealand needs more water storage in a changing climate

January 2018 was the hottest month ever recorded in New Zealand. Then, 2017 had been a year where shortages and surpluses of water created major problems; severe flooding occurred in a number of areas over the autumn and winter, followed by droughts in the spring and summer.

“Many areas went for several weeks with minimal rainfall this summer. Where water storage was available, it played an important role in ensuring locally grown produce was still available in supermarkets. But there’s still a lot of work to be undertaken to improve the resilience of our communities by improving our water storage,” says IrrigationNZ Chief Executive Andrew Curtis.

The 2012–2013 drought which affected the entire North Island and the west coast of the South Island is another example of the impact climate change could have on New Zealand’s economy and communities. It was one of the most severe droughts in these areas in at least 40 years. The economic impact of the drought was estimated by the Treasury to be a minimum of $1.5 billion.

“We are seeing the effects of poor future planning for the effects of climate change on water infrastructure overseas, with Cape Town expected to soon run out of water. By ratifying the Paris Agreement in 2016, New Zealand confirmed it will plan for and take action to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Developing more water storage to supply towns, rural communities and for food and energy production is important to protect the future well-being of Kiwis,” says Curtis. reported on a new draft government report, Adapting to Climate Change in New Zealand, that highlights that droughts are expected to occur more frequently and to be more severe, along with more intense rainfall and flood events.

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