Irrigation NZ says data collected from water meters on farms needs to be made more accessible to the public and irrigators.
“Farmers and growers using irrigation have been required nationally to collect data from water meters since 2012, however six years on there is still no national dataset around water use,” says IrrigationNZ Chief Executive Andrew Curtis.
A recent report from the Office of the Auditor General Monitoring How Water is Used for Irrigation, reported on the use of water meters across the six regions which account for 90% of irrigation consents nationally. Approximately 99% of high-water use permit holders in these regions now have water meters installed according to the report.
“Farmers have invested in water meters and associated software to comply with regulations and are using this to monitor and improve their water efficiency. With an increasing volume of information coming out of farm environment plans we are now gathering more data. We would like to see the government take the lead on establishing a consistent national data management framework and reporting system for monitoring water use. This would enable the public to have a clearer picture of how water is being used on farms,” says Mr Curtis.
The recently released 2017 Agricultural Production Census shows that over 90% of New Zealand’s irrigated land area uses spray or drip irrigation which is the most efficient form of irrigation. The Agricultural Production Census data also showed a significant drop in the amount of surface irrigation used which reduced by over 50 percent from 2012 to 2017. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, worldwide 86% of irrigated land uses surface irrigation which is the least efficient form of irrigation and only 14% of land uses spray or drip irrigation.
“New Zealand irrigators are continuing to switch to modern irrigation systems to become more water efficient and reduce nutrient losses into groundwater and waterways,” says Mr Curtis.
IrrigationNZ is the national organisation representing farmers and growers who use irrigation and carries out a range of training to improve irrigation efficiency and reduce nutrient losses. To date 3,000 irrigators and members of the irrigation service industry have participated in IrrigationNZ training events.
IrrigationNZ has championing the need for water metering since 2008. It established a code of practice for water management and led the establishment of a blue-tick programme which accredits water meter installation and verification companies.