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Dirty dairy fines only cover part of the problem

5 June 2012

Dirty dairy fines only cover part of the problem

Dirty dairy shed discharges highlighted today are only a small part of the problem, Green Party water spokesperson Eugenie Sage said today.

“Diffuse discharges are the ticking time bomb for our waterways, one set to go off in 10 to 20 years," said Ms Sage.

Dairy shed effluent accounts for only around one tenth of dairy cow discharges. Around 90% of urine and faeces are deposited directly onto pasture. In many instances nutrients from urine and fertiliser exceed the absorption capacity of the soil and plant uptake, leading to significant nutrient leaching to groundwater and waterways.

“If we agree as a community that we want rivers clean enough for swimming, then we need to set national water quality standards to that effect.

“The Minister for Agriculture has admitted that ‘there is a limit to the carrying capacity of this country.’ The National Government needs to take action and set those limits to help protect our rivers and lakes from the impacts of intensive agriculture.

“The collaborative Land and Water Forum was clear on the need for numeric national standards for water quality. There is no time to procrastinate,” said Ms Sage.

"The full effect of nutrient burden won't be obvious for another 10 to 20 years because of the time it takes for nitrate to leach though soils, into groundwater and then re-emerge in spring fed streams, lakes or in wells.

“To get an idea of the scale of the problem, the urine produced from the national dairy herd is equivalent to that from 80 million people, but without the sewage treatment,” said Ms Sage.

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