Posted by: scribe9 | April 19, 2010

Water not quite everywhere

As every schoolchild knows, Monday is washing day. So I did two loads of laundry, and rinsed them three times. I’m kidding about the last part. I didn’t rinse them three times; the machine did the first rinse, and the rain did the other two—quick dumps followed by sunshine. By sunset, everything was pretty dry.

The rain isn’t enough to do anything about our drought, which has been going on for months. We had a very dry spring and summer. The Far North has been on water restrictions for weeks (cutting greenhouse gasses significantly, but at a huge price to the farmers who’ve had to cull their herds and flocks, and dry off their dairy cattle); our city started just a few days ago, when the local reservoir became half empty. It won’t affect us, since we don’t use hoses or sprinklers. Our lawn is two kinds of grass and a broadleaf, but it has never browned out. Our predecessors parked on the front lawn, but you’d never know from looking at it. People park on the lawns a lot around here. A house near us usually has three on the lawn and two on the driveway and none in the garage, which is otherwise occupied.

The water restrictions also prohibit filling swimming and spa pools and pressure washing. Garden centers can’t use their automatic sprinklers, and car washes are closed.

Not all of New Zealand is suffering from drought, but much of the country has water problems. A big factor is the tremendous shift from sheep to dairy that began twenty years ago, and not all of the country is cut out to be irrigated pastures. Since water wasn’t an issue until lately, water law hasn’t kept pace.

While some would make New Zealand the dairy farmer to much of the world, tourism is an even bigger industry—and drying up rivers and polluting lakes doesn’t do much for the clean, green image New Zealand likes to promote. The battle is only beginning.

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