Kathryn Jessamine (Beca) and Jim Graham (Taumata Arowai)
The Water Services Act 2021 and the drinking water regulations (standards, compliance rules and aesthetic values) developed by Taumata Arowai, the water services regulator, set new requirements for all drinking water suppliers from 14 November 2022 to ensure safe drinking water. Taumata Arowai is also developing a number of instruments that water suppliers can use to demonstrate that they meet those requirements. Acceptable solutions or verification methods for drinking water (Acceptable Solutions) are one of these instruments and are intended to provide a compliance pathway that is proportionate to the scale, complexity and risk profile of certain, smaller water supplies. Three Acceptable Solutions have been consulted on so far; one for rural agricultural drinking water supplies, one for roof water supplies and one for spring and bore supplies serving up to 500 people.
It is expected that many of the users of these Acceptable Solutions will have limited experience with managing drinking water risks, be unfamiliar with drinking water science and technology, and will be constrained in financial resources, time and expertise. An Acceptable Solution approach improves the provision of safe drinking water by creating an alternative compliance option, but to be effective they need to be simple, affordable, easy to understand, applicable in a wide variety of situations, and practical. A technical approach to drinking water management seeks to minimise the risk of drinking water contamination through strict source water quality requirements, automatic control systems, multiple treatment barriers and providing redundancy for every eventuality. These things add cost and complexity, the opposite of the intention of the Drinking Water Acceptable Solutions.
This paper discusses the development of the Acceptable Solutions, the process of balancing the technical ideals with affordability and practicality by using a public health risk management approach to create a robust method of establishing compliance with legislative requirements. This approach seeks to maximise benefit in an effort to develop a solution that may not please everybody but is ultimately acceptable for everyone.