Water supply and sanitation in New Zealand

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New Zealand: Water and sanitation
Flag of New Zealand.svg
Data
Water coverage (broad definition)100%
Sanitation coverage (broad definition)100%
Continuity of supply (%)Mostly continuous
Average residential water use (l/p/d)263 litre/person/day (2019)[1]
Average domestic water and sewer billNZD$850/year [1]
Share of household metering50%
Annual investment in WSSNZD$2 billion (2018/19)
Share of self-financing by utilitiesHigh
Share of tax-financingNil
Share of external financingNil
Institutions
Decentralisation to municipalitiesIn all regions
National water and sanitation companyn/a
Water and sanitation regulatorTaumata Arowai
Responsibility for policy settingShared between Ministry of Health and Department of Internal Affairs
Sector lawThe Health Act
Taumata Arowai—the Water Services Regulator Bill
Number of urban service providersn/a
Number of rural service providersn/a

The provision of water supply and sanitation in New Zealand is generally of good quality in urban areas. It is provided by local government territorial authorities, which include city councils in urban areas and district councils in rural areas. The legal framework includes the Health Act 1956, amended in 2007, the Local Government Act 2002 and the Resource Management Act 1991.

Much of rural New Zealand relies on collection of rainwater for water supply and septic tanks for sewage disposal.

Access[edit]

The Human Right to Water and Sanitation was recognised as a human right by the United Nations General Assembly on 28 July 2010.[2]

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015. At its heart are 17 Sustainable Development Goals, including the sixth of the 17 goals which is to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.[3] While the New Zealand Government has expressed its commitment to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals, it is yet to announce any specific policy or data strategy for that purpose.[4][5]

Access to drinking water provided by registered suppliers (as opposed to self-supply), can be estimated from the reports into the safety of drinking water from registered suppliers that are published by Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR). As at 15 April 2020, the Drinking Water online database included records of water supplied to an estimated population of approximately 4.1 million. This indicates that around 85% of the estimated total population of New Zealand at that date receive water from a registered supplier.[6] The balance of the population (approximately 15%) rely upon small self-managed supplies including roof rainwater collection systems.

In their National Performance Review 2018-19, Water New Zealand reported that the proportion of the properties connected to water and wastewater services varies from around one third of properties in the Far North, to all properties in most major centres.[1]

Three waters assets and services[edit]

Key data about the three waters (water, wastewater, and stormwater) is made publicly available in a National Performance Review undertaken by an industry body Water New Zealand. This review has been undertaken annually since 2008, to provide a performance assessment of service provision and the protection of public health and the environment. The participants in the 2018-19 review have responsibility for jurisdictions covering 4,536,520 New Zealanders (approximately 93% of the population).[1]

Three waters assets[edit]

The assets covered in the 2018-19 review are shown in this table.[1]

Assets Quantity Value
($millions)
Water treatment plants 351 $2,581
Length of water supply pipes (km) 44,472 $10,015
Wastewater treatment plants 240 $3,356
Length of waste water pipes (km) 28,082 $12,974
Length of stormwater pipes (km) 17,710 $11,040
Total asset value $39,969

Capital and operational expenditure[edit]

The 2018-19 National Performance Review provides a summary of capital and operational expenditure on the three waters assets.[1]

Type of expenditure Water supply Wastewater Stormwater
Capital expenditure $348M $522M $220M
Interest $41M $105M $35M
Operational expenditure $275M $343M $101M
Total $665M $970M $356M

Population with reticulated services[edit]

Participants in the 2018-19 National Performance Review have responsibility for jurisdictions covering 4,536,520 New Zealanders (approximately 93% of the total population). The proportion of the population in those jurisdictions that receives reticulated water and wastewater services is shown in this table.[1]

Water supply Wastewater
Population served 3,559,296 (73%) 3,871,580 (79%)
Population not served 1,325,554 (27%) 1,013,270 (21%)
Total properties served 1,466,511 1,409,932

Affordability[edit]

Average water and wastewater charges are slightly under $850 per year. However, water and wastewater charges vary significantly around New Zealand. Consumers in some areas are paying over three times as much as for water as those in other areas ($863/year versus $262/year). For wastewater, the range in charges is even greater at over ten times as much ($1,217 versus $116/year). In the most expensive jurisdiction, the average customer will have a water and wastewater bill of over $1,700. For those who depend on the single living-alone superannuation payment, the water and wastewater bill in the most expensive region constitutes over 8% of their income. For those dependent on the sole parent support payment, it constitutes more than 10% of their income.[1]

Auditor-General review[edit]

In February 2020, the Auditor-General published a report reviewing how well public organisations are managing water resources and delivering water-related services. In the introduction to the report, the Auditor-General observed a lack of clarity about the issues in managing the three waters, how to address them, and who will deliver programmes of work. The statement called for improved national leadership. [7] [8]

Fresh water resources[edit]

New Zealand enjoys high rainfall, especially along its west coast and the country is notable for its many large, and sometimes braided rivers. However, although the population is relatively small, the population density in North Island is much greater than in South Island where most of the rain falls.

In New Zealand more than 10% of the population depends on roof-collected rainwater systems for their drinking water – especially in rural areas that are not served by municipal town water supplies. Roof-collected rainwater consumption is also popular because the general public has the perception that rainwater is “pure” and safe to drink. Indeed, the risk of disease arising from roof-collected rainwater consumption can be low, providing that the water is visibly clear, has little taste or smell and, most importantly, the storage and collection of rainwater is via a properly maintained tank and roof catchment system.[9]

The low level of water pollution and the relative abundance of rain-fall ensures that water shortages are relatively uncommon. Regional authorities provide abstraction, treatment and distribution infrastructure to most developed areas. Many municipal systems draw water from deep aquifers thus avoiding the cost of long pipelines. Some of these aquifer fed systems such as that serving Christchurch was of sufficiently good quality that no disinfection of final water was practised until the recent earthquake events. Following restoration of the network the water is no longer chlorinated. Water taken from shallower or less secure aquifers are at risk of contamination.

Water supply volumes and losses[edit]

The 2018-19 National Performance Review includes data about water supply volumes from the participants in the study. Residential consumption is estimated because only around 50% of residential properties nationwide have a meter installed. Water New Zealand noted that in this annual review, the total volume of non-residential water use is under-represented, and residential consumption overestimated, as some participants did not provide volumes of non-residential water use.[1]

Water end use Volume
(m3)
Non-residential water consumption 127,184,998
Residential consumption estimate 316,963,581
Total network water loss 119,010,271
Water supplied to system 563,158,850

The median of the average daily water consumption across participants is 263 litres per person per day, but there is a large spread in residential water efficiency in different areas.

In the 2019 fiscal year, participants reported 119 million cubic meters of water was lost in their water supply systems, equivalent to over 47,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools. This constituted 18% of the 555 million cubic meters of water supplied to the system.

Drinking-water quality[edit]

Havelock North contamination 2016[edit]

From 12 to 29 August 2016 the town of Havelock North experienced New Zealand's largest recorded outbreak of waterborne disease. Campylobacter entered the town's water supply. Of the town's 13,000 residents, 5,500 fell ill, 45 were hospitalised and four died.[10]

Inquiry[edit]

In September 2016, the Government announced an Inquiry into the outbreak, in two stages.[11] Stage 1 focused on identifying what happened, what caused the outbreak, and assessing the conduct of those responsible for providing safe drinking water to Havelock North. Stage 2 of the Inquiry addressed lessons learned for the future and steps to be implemented to reduce the likelihood of such an outbreak occurring again. [12] [13] [14]

Findings[edit]

The drinking water for Havelock North was sourced from an aquifer under the Heretaunga Plains (the Te Mata aquifer) that was thought to be a confined aquifer secure from contaminants. The District Council did not treat water drawn from this aquifer before it was distributed to consumers. During a period of heavy rain, a paddock adjacent to the bore became inundated, and sheep faeces caused contamination of the bore water. The Inquiry found that in July 1998, there had been a previous incident of contamination of drinking water at Havelock North, but that the lessons from that incident had been forgotten. Another key finding was that several of the parties with responsibility for the water supply regime for Havelock North had failed to adhere to the high levels of care and diligence needed to protect public health and to avoid outbreaks of serious illness. The Inquiry concluded that a higher standard of care was needed, similar to that applied in the fields of medicine and aviation where the consequences of a failure could similarly be illness, injury or death.

Recommendations[edit]

The recommendations arising from Stage 2 of the Inquiry including wide-ranging proposals for legislative and regulatory changes to drive systematic improvements in the management of drinking water nationwide. The recommendations also included mandatory treatment of all drinking water networks and certain self-supplied systems, and the review of drinking water standards and guidelines. [15]

Subsequent research findings[edit]

The Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) carried out genome-sequencing on the campylobacter strain that was found in sick people during the outbreak. The subsequent research has shown that some people living outside Havelock North, but who visited the area during the time of the outbreak, were also affected. The study suggests that the total number of campylobacteriosis cases traceable to the water contamination could be as high as 8320, with up to 2230 of these living outside of Havelock North.[16]

Annual drinking-water quality report - 2017-18[edit]

The Ministry of Health provides an annual report on the drinking-water quality of all registered networked drinking-water supplies serving populations of more than 100 people. The report for the period 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018 describes compliance with the requirements of the Drinking-water Standards for New Zealand and progress made towards meeting the requirements of the Health Act 1956.[17]

Performance criteria Population
Water complies with all the legislative requirements under the Act 3,250,000 (84.7%)
Implementation of a water safety plan for the supply has commenced 3,810,000 (99.3%)
Met the bacteriological requirements of Standards 3,751,000 (97.7%)
Met all the monitoring requirements in the Standards 3,531,000 (92.0%)

Sanitation[edit]

All significant sized urban developments are served by municipal sewers which drain to modern treatment works with final discharges to river or the sea. Rural communities and isolated housing is served by septic tanks or by chemical toilets or earth closets depending on location and usage. The 135 wastewater treatment plants discharge into the following type of environment:[18]

Estuary 5
Groundwater 8
Lake 1
Land 26
Long Sea Outfall 22
Near Shore Outfall 7
River/stream/drain 62
Wetland 4

Stormwater[edit]

In its summary of the findings from the National Performance Review 2018-19, Water New Zealand observed that management of stormwater quality is not yet widespread. Stormwater quality monitoring programmes and/or catchment management plans are in place for just over half the Review’s participants. Consents for stormwater discharge are even less widespread. Only eight participants had all stormwater discharges consented. Most commonly, participants had consents for less than 10% of the network, and six participants had no stormwater discharge consents whatsoever.[1]

In 2018, the Auditor-General reviewed the management of stormwater by three councils, to gain insights into how these councils were managing the risk of flooding in their communities. The councils reviewed were Dunedin City Council, Porirua City Council, and Thames-Coromandel District Council. One of the main conclusions was that the three councils had a reactive approach to understanding flood risk, by relying mostly on the information collected after a flood. The lack of forecasting could lead to a poor understanding of the risk and cost of future events, and inadequate preparation. The review also noted that the three councils were spending less than the annual depreciation amount on re-investment in stormwater systems, and that under-investment could lead to stormwater systems failing to contain and minimise flooding.

In the summary of findings, the Auditor-General noted that all councils face challenges when managing their stormwater systems, including ageing infrastructure, limited capacity, managing costs to the community, and having the right people and skills in their organisations. The main recommendations concern the need for improved investment decision making, based upon better information about flood risks, and the performance and capacity of stormwater assets.[19]

Reform of policy and regulation[edit]

Three Waters Review[edit]

In mid 2017, the Government launched a review of the regulation and supply arrangements of drinking water, wastewater and stormwater (three waters). This review ran in parallel with the later stages of the Inquiry into the Havelock North drinking water contamination of 2016. [20]

In 2019, the Government announced plans for regulatory changes in response to the Three Waters Review, including: [21] [22] [23] [24]

  • establish a new, dedicated drinking water regulator
  • extend regulatory coverage to all drinking water suppliers, except individual household self-suppliers
  • provide a multi-barrier approach to drinking water treatment and safety
  • strengthen government oversight and stewardship of wastewater and stormwater services
  • provide transitional arrangements of up to five years to allow water suppliers to adjust to the regulations.

The Taumata Arowai–the Water Services Regulator Bill was introduced to Parliament on 12 Dec 2019. [25] The Government indicated a separate Water Services bill would be proposed at a later date to give effect to decisions to implement system-wide reforms to the regulation of drinking water and source water, and targeted reforms to improve the regulation and performance of wastewater and stormwater networks.[26]

Reform of service delivery and funding[edit]

On 28 January 2020, the Minister of Local Government, Hon Nanaia Mahuta, released Cabinet papers and minutes setting out intentions for reform of service delivery and funding arrangements for the three waters services nationwide.[27]

The Cabinet paper referred to two key challenges facing New Zealand's three waters service delivery: affordability and capability. The paper referred to the cumulative effect of increasing capital and operating costs to meet infrastructure challenges, and constrained sector capability to address key public health and environmental challenges. It noted that these challenges are particularly acute for smaller council and non-council drinking water suppliers, with smaller ratepayer and consumer funding bases.

The paper described the current situation (in most regions), where individual councils supply and manage water systems and services alongside their other duties. There was specific reference to Wellington Water (which manages the water assets of six councils), as an example of one approach to service delivery that had successfully built capability through the scale of operations. However, the paper also noted that Wellington Water currently has no ability to make trade-offs between operating and capital expenditure, nor can it cross-subsidise between owners or ratepayers in different districts.

A transition is envisaged, to a next stage where water services are fully 'ring-fenced' from other council services, with charges for ratepayers specifically identifying the water services in their rates. At this stage, Councils may share service provision with other councils. The final stage envisaged in the paper is the full transfer of asset ownership of the water assets to a new entity governed by an independent Board of Directors, and with specialist employees who would focus on water services.

The Government indicated that it would work in partnership with local government to explore options for transitioning councils to new service delivery arrangements, seeking safer, more affordable and reliable three waters services. The first step was to support the investigation of opportunities within regions for collaborative approaches to water service delivery.[28]

Hawke's Bay investigation[edit]

As an initial step towards the proposed reforms, on 27 January 2020 the Government announced funding of $1.55m for an investigation of opportunities for greater coordination in three waters service delivery across the Hawke's Bay region, involving five councils: Napier City Council, Hastings District Council, Central Hawke’s Bay District Council, Wairoa District Council and Hawke’s Bay Regional Council.[29]

Otago and Southland investigation[edit]

In May 2020, ten councils in the Otago and Southland regions commenced the development of a business case for a collaborative approach to managing the three waters assets. The business case was expected to take about eight months and would be followed by public consultation. The Government agreed to cover half of the cost, with a deadline for councils to consider changes to service delivery models by the end of 2021. The ten councils involved in the investigation were Dunedin City Council, Central Otago District Council, Clutha District Council, Queenstown Lakes District Council, Waitaki District Council, Otago Regional Council, Gore District Council, Invercargill City Council, Southland District Council and Environment Southland.[30]

Reactions[edit]

The New Zealand Infrastructure Commission published an opinion piece in May 2020 supporting the reform of service delivery in the three waters sector nationwide. The Chief Executive advocated consolidation of asset management and service delivery functions from multiple councils into much larger entities. The main benefits would be to capture economies of scale and free up councils from the specialist technical requirements of managing utility services.[31]

Asset management and investment planning[edit]

On 29 January 2020, the Government announced the investment of $12 billion in the New Zealand Upgrade Programme, focussing on rail, roads, schools and hospitals.[32]

An economist from Infometrics questioned whether the investment programme was focussed in the areas of greatest need, and pointed to New Zealand’s ageing water infrastructure. Their analysis of council expenditure plans found that investment in the three waters is expected to be $17.2 billion over the next decade, split between $11.6 billion in waste and stormwater, and $5.6 billion for water supply. However, more than half of the planned investment in waste and stormwater is to replace assets that are at the end of their working life, with only a quarter of the money allocated for additions and improvements. They claimed that further new investment in water infrastructure is needed to cope with a growing population and the demands of the Government's three waters review, aimed at improving the quality of drinking water, storm water and waste water.[33]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "2018-2019 National Performance Review". Water New Zealand. ISSN 2422-9970. Archived from the original on 2 May 2020. Retrieved 27 April 2020.
  2. ^ "Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 28 July 2010 - 64/292". United Nations. 28 July 2010. Archived from the original on 2 May 2020. Retrieved 30 April 2020. The human right to water and sanitation
  3. ^ "Sustainable Development Goals". United Nations. Archived from the original on 2 May 2020. Retrieved 30 April 2020.
  4. ^ "The Global Goals". Human Rights Commission. Archived from the original on 2 May 2020. Retrieved 30 April 2020.
  5. ^ "Goal 6: Clean water and sanitation". Human Rights Commission. Archived from the original on 2 May 2020. Retrieved 30 April 2020.
  6. ^ "Drinking Water for New Zealand". ESR. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  7. ^ "Reflecting on our work about water management". Controller and Auditor-General. 12 February 2020. Retrieved 7 April 2020.
  8. ^ Morton, Jamie (18 February 2020). "Auditor-General: NZ not managing water well enough". NZ Herald. Retrieved 7 April 2020.
  9. ^ https://www.ruralwaterservices.co.nz/uploads/1/1/8/9/118914627/water-tank-info.pdf
  10. ^ "The Economic Costs of the Havelock North August 2016 Waterborne Disease Outbreak" (PDF). Ministry of Health. 25 September 2017. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 May 2020. Retrieved 3 April 2020.
  11. ^ "Havelock North Drinking-Water Inquiry established". Attorney-General, Hon Christopher Finlayson. 12 September 2017. Archived from the original on 2 May 2020. Retrieved 3 April 2020.
  12. ^ "Government Inquiry into Havelock North Drinking Water". Department of Internal Affairs. Archived from the original on 2 May 2020. Retrieved 3 April 2020.
  13. ^ "Report of the Havelock North Drinking Water Inquiry: Stage 1". Department of Internal Affairs. 10 May 2017. Archived from the original on 2 May 2020. Retrieved 3 April 2020.
  14. ^ "Report of the Havelock North Drinking Water Inquiry – Stage 2". Department of Internal Affairs. 6 December 2017. Archived from the original on 2 May 2020. Retrieved 3 April 2020.
  15. ^ "Report of the Havelock North Drinking Water Inquiry: Stage 2" (PDF). Department of Internal Affairs. December 2017. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 May 2020. Retrieved 7 April 2020.
  16. ^ Kitchin, Tom (13 July 2020). "Havelock North campylobacter study estimates 8320 were infected". RNZ. Archived from the original on 13 July 2020.
  17. ^ "Annual Report on Drinking-water Quality 2017–2018". Ministry of Health. 27 June 2019. ISSN 1179-2604. Archived from the original on 2 May 2020. Retrieved 27 April 2020.
  18. ^ Ministry for the Environment:How many municipal wastewater treatment plants discharge to land, sea, lake, river?
  19. ^ "Managing stormwater systems to reduce the risk of flooding". Office of the Auditor-General. 10 December 2018. Archived from the original on 1 June 2020.
  20. ^ "Three Waters Review". Department of Internal Affairs. Archived from the original on 2 May 2020. Retrieved 7 April 2020.
  21. ^ "New govt regulator to have 'final say' on safe drinking water". Radio NZ. 31 July 2019. Archived from the original on 2 May 2020. Retrieved 7 April 2020.
  22. ^ "Speech for the WaterNZ conference". Minister of Local Government, Hon Nanaia Manuta. 16 September 2019. Archived from the original on 2 May 2020. Retrieved 7 April 2020.
  23. ^ "New Crown agency will enforce water safety standards". Radio NZ. 25 October 2019. Archived from the original on 2 May 2020. Retrieved 7 April 2020.
  24. ^ "Independent regulator to make drinking water safe". Minister of Health, Hon Dr David Clark and Minister of Local Government, Hon Nanaia Manuta. 25 October 2019. Archived from the original on 2 May 2020. Retrieved 7 April 2020.
  25. ^ "The Water Services Regulator Bill – Taumata Arowai a milestone for drinking water safety". Minister of Local Government, Hon Nanaia Manuta. 12 December 2019. Archived from the original on 2 May 2020. Retrieved 7 April 2020.
  26. ^ "Have your say on the Taumata Arowai-the Water Services Bill". Scoop. 18 December 2018. Archived from the original on 2 May 2020. Retrieved 1 May 2020.
  27. ^ "Proactive release of Cabinet material about three waters service delivery and funding arrangements" (PDF). Hon Nanaia Mahuta, Minister of Local Government. 28 January 2020. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 May 2020. Retrieved 26 April 2020.
  28. ^ "Three Waters Review". Hon Nanaia Mahuta, Minister of Local Government. Archived from the original on 2 May 2020. Retrieved 26 April 2020. Progress update – February 2020 – Three waters service delivery and funding arrangements
  29. ^ "Government funding of $1.5m to go towards review of Hawke's Bay water". NZ Herald. 27 January 2020. Archived from the original on 2 May 2020. Retrieved 26 April 2020.
  30. ^ Morgan, Jared (23 May 2020). "Councils to mull water changes". Otago Daily Times. Archived from the original on 2 June 2020.
  31. ^ "Opinion: Rethinking Three Waters in New Zealand". Infracom. 27 May 2020. Archived from the original on 1 June 2020.
  32. ^ "The New Zealand Upgrade Programme". NZ Government. 29 January 2020. Archived from the original on 1 June 2020.
  33. ^ Coughlan, Thomas (27 January 2020). "Government set to announce $12b infrastructure splurge, with a lot of it going to roads". Stuff. Archived from the original on 1 June 2020.

External links[edit]