Water  |  1 Aug 2019

Christchurch City Council is welcoming the Government’s move to introduce new regulations and a dedicated watchdog to ensure people’s drinking water is safe.

The Council is the second largest water supplier in the country.

Water coming from a tap.

Christchurch City Council is working on upgrading its water supply network.

“It is vital that everyone has access to safe, clean drinking water and we support the Government’s moves to overhaul New Zealand’s water regulations to ensure there is no repeat of the 2016 Havelock North campylobacter outbreak where four people died and a large proportion of the residents got sick from their drinking water,’’ says Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel.

“We agree there are weaknesses within the current regulatory framework that need to be addressed and we support the move to have a single regulator.

“Providing safe and reliable drinking water for our community is one of our core functions and something we have been doing for a very long time.

“In anticipation of the regulatory changes announced by the Government yesterday, we have been working to strengthen our network to ensure our community’s drinking water is safe, without the need for residual chlorination,’’ the Mayor says.

“We have been investing significantly in upgrading our well heads, drilling new and deeper wells, repairing our reservoirs, and replacing older water pipes.

“We are spending an additional $2 million on smart sensors to detect any damaging pressure fluctuations and leaks in our network.  We are also stepping up our auditing and inspection of backflow devices.

“Overall we plan to spend more than $450 million over the next nine years on improving the security of our water supply.’’

The Council continues to work closely with the Drinking Water Assessor, the Medical Officer of Health, and the Ministry of Health on how it can manage any risks to the water supply and ensure the protection of public health.

“I was relieved to see that the Government announcement states that there will be exemptions to the requirement for residual disinfection. We have said that there must not be a ‘one size fits all’ approach,’’ the Mayor says. 

“We will continue to focus our efforts as a city on meeting the requirements of the new framework.''

What’s involved in the Government’s new regulatory framework for drinking water?

  • An extension of the regulatory coverage to all drinking water suppliers, except individual household self-suppliers;
  • A multi-barrier approach to drinking water safety, including mandatory disinfection of water supplies, with exemptions only in appropriate circumstances;
  • Stronger obligations on water suppliers and local authorities to manage risks to sources of drinking water; and
  • Strengthened compliance, monitoring and enforcement of drinking water regulation.
  • While regional councils will remain the primary regulators for the environment, there will be stronger central oversight of wastewater and stormwater regulation, including:
  • Requirements for wastewater and stormwater operators to report annually on a set of national environmental performance measures;
  • National good practice guidelines for the design and management of wastewater and stormwater networks; and
  • Monitoring of emerging contaminants in wastewater and stormwater, and coordinating national responses where necessary.

When will this take affect?      

Reforms will be implemented through a Water Services Bill. The Government is aiming to introduce this Bill by the end of the year, with possible enactment by mid-2020. The legislation will include transitional arrangements to allow water suppliers to adjust to the regulations, with support from the new regulator, if necessary.

You can find more information on the DIA website.

What is Christchurch’s track record in providing safe drinking water?

The city has been supplying pure untreated drinking water for more than 150 years. Christchurch has a solid record of microbiological compliance with the current Drinking Water Standards and no evidence of waterborne disease.  Even after the earthquakes, there were no reported cases of illness as a result of the water supply.