High-tech investment extends drought forecasting for farmers and growers

The Government is investing in the development of a new forecasting tool that makes full use of innovative climate modelling to help farmers and growers prepare for dry conditions.

The new approach will cost $200,000, jointly funded through the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA).

It will provide daily drought forecasts out to 35 days. Later, the project will also explore drought predictions up to six months ahead. NIWA currently provides seasonal climate outlooks each month that look three months ahead, but are not drought specific.

“We are harnessing the latest in climate and data science to put information into the hands of the people who can make the best use of it,” Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said.

“Knowing well in advance when dry conditions are heading your way means you can cut your cloth accordingly at critical times on-farm. Having early warning can help determine stocking levels, water storage and feed management options.” Continue reading

NIWA launches index to monitor drought conditions around NZ

A new tool to monitor drought conditions across New Zealand was launched today by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research . Called The New Zealand Drought Index, it is being promoted as an easy-to-use, colour-coded map that defines the scientifically observed drought status of every New Zealand district.

The index is modelled on similar indexes used around the world, displaying the dryness of each district in five categories: dry, very dry, extremely dry, drought and severe drought. Each category is colour-coded from yellow for dry through to dark red for severe drought.

NIWA has developed the index in conjunction with the Ministry for Primary Industries over the past two years.

The ministry will use the new index as one of the criteria, alongside the wider impact on the rural community, to determine whether a drought is a medium- or large- scale adverse event. The Minister for Primary Industries then decides what support and recovery measures should be made available.

The index is based on four commonly-used climatological drought indicators: the Standardised Precipitation Index, the Soil Moisture Deficit, the Soil Moisture Deficit Anomaly and the Potential Evapotranspiration Deficit.

The index is presented as a map and as charts, enabling people to select districts and climatological indicators to keep track of particular areas.

It is expected to be a useful tool for farmers, irrigators, regional councils, water managers and anyone who needs to know about dry conditions. It is searchable by date and any combination of the drought indicators.

The NZDI can be accessed HERE.

Collaborative water management in North Canterbury

Waiology, a NIWA-managed blog about NZ’s freshwaters (here) has posted an item on collaborative water management in north Canterbury.

It notes that in July this year the Hurunui-Waiau Zone Committee will notch up three years of work.

It was set up as part of the Canterbury Water Management Strategy – a collaborative process for finding local solutions to water issues within an environmentally sustainable framework.

The post by David Eder (chair of the committee) and Ian Whitehouse (Environment Canterbury facilitator for the committee) reviews the committee’s work and decisions.

The next challenge for the zone committee is to increase the understanding between rural and urban audiences and dispel some of the myths that nothing has changed and farmers are destroying the land. People need to take some time to learn what is going on and begin to understand and appreciate the progress that is being made. The recommendations in the ZIP include setting flow and allocation regimes for the rivers and their tributaries.

Nutrient load limits also need to be set for North Canterbury’s rivers and tributaries and landowners need to improve nutrient management practices to make new irrigation developments feasible.