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​Improving drinking water quality will place big costs on local communities


29 May 2017

Local communities are likely to face significantly increased costs to meet water quality standards as a result of the Havelock North water contamination.

Water New Zealand Chief Executive John Pfahlert said many communities will struggle to meet new standards which will almost certainly result from the findings of the Havelock North inquiry.

Speaking at the Local Government New Zealand Freshwater Symposium today, he said that water quality has become an affordability issue for small and low income communities.

“Already many smaller communities do not meet the Drinking Water Standards because they cannot afford the costs of adequate water treatment.

“It’s very likely the inquiry will recommend significant regulatory changes to water supply.

“In many regions this will mean upgrading existing water treatment plants or in some cases building new plants. There will also be increased costs around treatment such as chlorine or UV treatment.

“The inquiry has identified a number of issues in relation to drinking water delivery at Havelock North that are likely to be replicated elsewhere in New Zealand. While improving this situation will likely require a national regulatory fix it seems unlikely the government will pick up the cost.

“New Zealanders expect safe drinking water but many communities will struggle to fund this against a back drop of static or falling incomes and in some areas, falling populations.

“Water New Zealand’s latest National Performance Review (2015-2016) has revealed that communities with the lowest average household incomes are those with the highest proportion of household incomes spent on drinking water, wastewater and stormwater service delivery.

“The bill for water, wastewater and stormwater cost those households more than three percent of the average income in those areas.”

A UK study has found that three water affordability risks emerge when a household spends more than three percent of disposable income on water and sewerage bills.