Water supply and sanitation in New Zealand

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Share of household metering n/a
Annual investment in WSS n/a
Share of self-financing by utilities n/a
Share of tax-financing n/a
Share of external financing n/a
Decentralisation to regional government
Water and sanitation regulator No
Responsibility for policy setting
Sector law
Number of urban service providers
Number of rural service providers n/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.


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. [1]


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:[2]

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

Water supply[edit]

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. An outbreak of Cryptosporidiosis in Hawkes Bay area affecting Hastings and Napier has been attributed to the consequences of intensive agricultural in the area overlying the aquifer. [3]

About 87% of the population receives drinking water from local authorities,[4] including 53 District Councils and 5 Unitary Authorities.

Domestic water usage demand is relatively poorly documented with few authorities collecting relevant or reliable information and several relying exclusively on abstraction volumes as a surrogate for use.[5] For example, in Nelson residential water use was estimated at 180 liters/person/day while total water use including commercial use and public buildings was estimated at 500 litre/person/day.[6]

Economic and financial aspects[edit]

In 2009, the country's infrastructure for drinking water was valued at about NZ$11 billion. For the years 2009 to 2019, local authorities' operational expenditure for supplying drinking water was projected at an average of NZ$605 million each year, and the average annual capital expenditure at NZ$390 million.[4]

In most of New Zealand, the cost of water supply and sewage disposal is recovered from house holders through property tax as a percentage of the rateable value of the property. In urban Auckland, water use is metered and charged separately from rates.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ https://www.ruralwaterservices.co.nz/uploads/1/1/8/9/118914627/water-tank-info.pdf
  2. ^ Ministry for the Environment:How many municipal wastewater treatment plants discharge to land, sea, lake, river?
  3. ^ "Cryptosporidiosis outbreak in Napier and Hastings". Central FM. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  4. ^ a b Controller and Auditor-General (2010). "Local authorities: Planning to meet the forecast demand for drinking water". Retrieved 8 February 2012.
  5. ^ Controller and Auditor-General:Measuring how much drinking water is used
  6. ^ Controller and Auditor-General (2010). "Local authorities: Planning to meet the forecast demand for drinking water, Appendix 1: Technical information about drinking water supply in the eight local authorities". Retrieved 8 February 2012.
  7. ^ "Water meters". Watercare. Retrieved 1 September 2016.

External links[edit]