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Water rich New Zealand points to a bright future

9 March 2011

Water rich New Zealand points to a bright future

“Being ‘water-rich’ means that future trade prospects, and therefore future standards of living, for New Zealanders are very bright,” Water NZ CEO, Murray Gibb told a meeting of the Kapiti Central Combined Probus Club yesterday.

His presentation showed how New Zealand is one of only very few developed countries that are net food exporters. “We are actually a sustainable virtual water exporter,” he said.

“This gives New Zealand a significant strategic advantage for the future as our water and land resources are not under any significant pressure as compared with many other countries.”

He told the audience that most of the water used internationally is for agriculture for food production. It takes around 2,000 to 3,000 litres of water to produce enough food to satisfy one person’s daily dietary needs (about 1 litre per calorie), over and above domestic water consumption (only about 2–5 litres of water are required for an individual’s physiological needs).

“As graphic examples it takes 40 litres of water to produce a slice of bread, 70 litres to produce a single apple, 150 litres to produce a cup of coffee, and 15,000 litres to produce a kg of grain fed beef,” he explained.

Murray Gibb said that internationally demand for water is going up while supply is going down as a result of increasing urbanisation, desertification and overuse of inefficient irrigation. “In fact a third of the world’s countries are already water stressed, and this figure is increasing.

“Yet while there is need for significantly increased food production globally, available arable land per person is decreasing. There is less than 0.2 hectares per person left, half the amount available 40 years ago.”

“It is likely that the current long term trend towards cheaper food will be reversed as mankind starts to run into resource constraints – i.e. shortages of land and water.

“New Zealand is well placed to take advantage of this situation with plentiful water, arable land, and a very sophisticated agricultural sector all contributing to an increasingly valuable export sector.

“Indeed, the outlook suggests that water might be the new carbon, and that New Zealand is sitting in the box seat, for once,” Murray Gibb concluded.


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