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Northland's Water Emergency

While parts of New Zealand have been flooded, water is getting very scarce in Northland. Council is requesting everyone to reduce their usage to avoid running out completely. It’s a clear message to value our water resources.

River flows in February were well below normal - Kerikeri river

Vision Kerikeri has been submitting repeatedly to Council to make the installation of rainwater tanks mandatory for new buildings. Catch and store the water when it is available in abundance. With good filtration, the quality might even be better than town water. This would supplement water in reticulated townships in periods of low rainfall and avoid expensive construction of dams and reservoirs.

Farmers can also catch and store water in ponds and lakes. For large hilly farms "Keyline farm planning is a management tool that uses natural landscape contours and farming techniques to slow, sink, spread and store rainwater as well as build soil fertility. With a detailed contour map of your farm, keyline planning can help determine the optimal placement for farm elements such as: irrigation ponds, cropping & orchard rows, structures, roads/tracks, fences, livestock rotation, subsoil rip lines, and more.” (See

Our Council is working on a strategic plan to reach the year 2100 safely and comfortably. The population is growing and horticulture wants to expand evermore. Farmers, horticulturists, industries and households require reliable water supplies without causing ecological harm for aquifers.

Northland is surrounded on three sides by an unlimited resource: water in the oceans and has plenty of sunshine. A practicable solution might be the installation of solar desalination plants, which could provide potable water and a considerable amount of salt to be used for other purposes (e.g. preserve fish, olives, and cabbage).

Desalination has been done in Singapore and Israel on a large scale for many years. The plants’ function is now proven and cost and energy effective, especially with solar energy: 1 cubic meter of seawater needs 2 kWh of power to turn it into potable water. The Singaporean water demand for its almost six million inhabitants is met to almost 60% with the reverse osmosis process without the ecological problems experienced elsewhere: excess salt is returned to the bottom of the far out sea to avoid silting and harm to marine life. Singapore is operating six plants by now and has been receiving global awards: Here are more details:

A desalination plant in Northland could ensure the supply of potable water during dry periods, but also consistently relieve wells, aquifers and rivers from being overused. The environment with fauna and flora would recover and benefit.

Shane Jones’ Regional Growth Fund might be able to provide financial support for the project, which could be copied by other regions also lacking sufficient water at times and overusing existing resources.

Transition Engineering, as taught and practiced by Professor Dr. Susan Krumdieck at Canterbury University, could be a useful strategy tool to safeguard the next 80 years:

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