Protecting Our Pure Water Sources
New Zealand is famously water-rich with over 50 major rivers, 770 lakes, and a large number of underground aquifers. Our waterways are replenished by high annual rainfall, which is estimated at between 300 billion and 600 billion cubic meters per year.
Water is of critical importance to New Zealand’s wine industry for vine irrigation and wine making activities. Sustainable water management within the sector centers on minimizing water use and protecting the purity of our water sources. Water access rights are granted in the form of resource consents by local government bodies under the Resource Management Act 1991.
This environmental legislation is a testament to New Zealand’s progressive approach to conservation. It covers all of the country’s natural resources and deals with water usage and drainage, and wastewater dispersal. Complying with the Act’s stringent regulations has placed strong emphasis on careful water management in the vineyard. Vineyard managers are required to perform a balancing act between minimizing use and providing enough water to assure fruit quality.
To assist with planning for each season, rainfall, evaporation, transpiration and soil moisture are constantly monitored and recorded. Drip and scheduled irrigation systems that have long been mainstays of our water management program, have only recently being adopted in other international wine growing regions.
These systems minimize the amount of water required and prevent issues that excess soil water can cause, such as an increase in disease, reduction in fruit quality, and surface runoff degrading ground water. Water offers a sustainable form of frost protection in many vineyards. Using a minimal amount of water, and given that frosts generally occur at times of high water supply, this practice has a negligible impact.
In wineries water management focuses on minimizing the amount of water used for cleaning and the management of ensuing wastewater- from treatment, through to recycling and discharge. Hot water used for bottle sterilization is reused in other cleaning activities. This saves energy and reduces the quantity of wastewater that needs to be treated and discharged.