Growing risk of nitrate contamination private water supplies

Many thousands of people could be at risk from drinking water with high levels of nitrates.

Water New Zealand President, Kelvin Hill says there are thousands of private drinking water bores throughout the country, particularly on farms and on lifestyle blocks, and many may not be meeting current Drinking Water Standards.

He says that Water New Zealand’s latest National Performance Review has found that more than 225,000 people do not have a municipal water connection and use either rainwater tanks or private bores for their water supply.

"While it is the responsibility of regional councils to monitor water quality in their regions, this doesn’t extend to ongoing monitoring of private water bores.

“If you look at the situation in Christchurch, it is quite clear that our ground water is under pressure from farming and increased agricultural activities.”

He says water quality is also being affected in other regions around the country.

“Contamination from nitrates and fertiliser run-off doesn’t just affect our rivers and streams, it also has an impact on groundwater for drinking.”

He says regional councils don’t actively monitor private bore water quality.

“This means it is up to bore owners to ensure that their bore water is safe to drink through regular testing.”

“Ground water quality changes, so just because the water is fine when a bore is first drilled, doesn’t mean the quality will be fine further down the track.”

Kelvin Hill says he advises all private owners to ensure that they get their bore water independently tested for bacteria and nitrate contamination at least once a year.

“This is something that needs to be taken seriously, especially given recent research linking nitrate contamination with increased risk of cancer.”

“I would hope that when the Government announces the role and responsibilities of the new drinking water regulator, there will be resourcing to enable better advice and support for private suppliers."

For more information contact Communications Advisor Debra Harrington on 027 202 8857

Water New Zealand is a national not-for-profit organisation which promotes the sustainable management and development of New Zealand’s three waters (freshwater, wastewater and storm water). Water New Zealand is the country's largest water industry body, providing leadership and support in the water sector through advocacy, collaboration and professional development. Its 1,600 members are drawn from all areas of the water management industry including regional councils and territorial authorities, consultants, suppliers, government agencies, academia and scientists.

Water New Zealand

Ranchhod Tower | Level 12, 39 The Terrace
PO Box 1316, Wellington 6140 |
Tel: +64 4 472 8925 | Fax: 64 4 472 8926

Drinking Water Water New Zealand Water Quality