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Drought Heats Up Farmers Tension

By Jason Duop / 12 February 2015

Farmers are among the minority in New Zealand who are not celebrating this season’s fine weather. In fact, they are the minority fearing it. Stuff.co.nz explains, “Farmers reliant on the Opuha dam near Fairlie for irrigation are facing unprecedented water restrictions, and unless rain comes in the next few weeks the lake will effectively dry up for the first time in its 16-year history.”

One of the 250 landowners reliant on the lake’s waters needed to to cull 10 per cent of his dairy herd of 1150 and a further 10 per cent has been sent out of the region, due to the drought-like conditions. And unfortunately for many, these conditions are predicted to linger for a while.  Timaru in particular has been struggling with just 21mm of rain over December – about a third of normal. Soil moisture levels are severely low in the area, and NIWA does not see matters improving anytime soon.

Picture this as an indication about how bad off local farmers are: Usually the lake holds around 90 per cent of its 72million cubic metres capacity in January. At present it has just 30 per cent, and unless it rains soon the lake will effectively be dry by the end of February.

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Jason Duop

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