Friday, March 11, 2016

The cost of irrigation

For decades, farmers have been sucking Canterbury's aquifers dry to water their thirsty cows. And now its having the expected effect: Christchurch's streams are drying up:

Several inner-city Christchurch streams have vanished, leaving dead eels and puddles of stagnant water in the middle of an affluent suburb.

Low water levels have afflicted many of Canterbury's waterways in recent months, which the regional council attributes to dry weather.

Critics are adamant that is not the case, and fear it may signal the beginning of the end for Christchurch's waterways.

The Waimairi and Wai-iti streams, which run through Fendalton and feed the Avon River, have dried up.

Both streams were once teeming with trout, crayfish and long-fin eels; Waimairi Stream was so pure residents reportedly drank from it.

But the real problem isn't these two streams, but what they feed: the Avon. With its tributaries drying up, the worry is that Christchurch's iconic river will be next. And with Christchurch's residents stripped of their vote and democratically disempowered so farmers can keep on sucking, there seems to be no democratic way for them to save it.