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The River Runs Through: webinar

Changing snowfall for irrigation, energy supply and healthy rivers

Here in Aotearoa, we’ve tended to treat water as a resource that will never run dry.

We’ve built an energy network dependent on consistent lake levels and we’ve turned drylands into arable landscapes using irrigation. Snow fall in our mountain regions feeds our largest hydro-electric power schemes, and provides critical water – especially during drought. We’ve followed the principal that almost all water is available to use, and haven’t thought enough about how much water the river itself requires, or the lifeforms it sustains. Water has looked after us, but have we looked after it? Do we know enough about where this water comes from and how its changing with our climate?

With climate change seriously impacting how much it snows and rains, and how long snow remains in the mountains, we need to think more carefully about the way we relate to our rivers – from their source in the mountains all the way to the coast, and beyond.

There is much to learn from mātauranga Māori, and in this webinar, Riki Ellison (Ngāi Tahu), speaks to the work he has done over years towards establishing Te Mana o Te Wai, a concept highlighting how by protecting freshwater, we protect our future. Riki is joined by Todd Redpath and Jen Purdie, two Deep South Challenge researchers, discussing how we relate to water now and in years to come.

We also hear directly from Jen and Todd. Todd Redpath’s research examines an often overlooked component of the water cycle: the large amount of water that is actually stored as snow or ice in our mountains. Snow makes a crucial contribution to many of our largest catchments, but until recently it has been poorly understood and poorly modelled, making the management of precious water a difficult task.

Looking towards the future, Jen Purdie’s research looks at how climate change, including water and snow melt as well as irrigation pumping load under drought, may impact electricity demand and supply.

Our ability to both reduce our carbon emissions and adapt to the climate change already locked in depends in large part on the health and future of our rivers. We invite you to listen in to this important conversation that truly flows from the source to the tap.