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​Better design and innovation needed for long term water sustainability


22 March 2018

New Zealand will need to become more innovative in the way we deliver and manage drinking water, waste water and stormwater in order to deal with the challenges we are facing.

Today (March 22) is World Water Day and Water New Zealand Chief Executive John Pfahlert says this year’s theme ‘Nature for Water’ is particularly pertinent given the issues that we are confronting.

“Delivering safe drinking water, providing effective sanitation and protecting waterways from pollution is becoming increasingly challenging.”

He says despite the fact we are a developed country, only a third of New Zealand communities of fewer than 500 people have drinking water supplies that meet the drinking water standards.

“We also have as many as 100,000 on-site waste water treatment systems that are considered to be in failure mode and discharging inadequately treated sewage into the environment.

As part of World Water Day this year the United Nations will launch the International Decade for Action: Water for Sustainable Development focusing on sustainable and cost-effective ways to help rebalance the water cycle, mitigate effects of climate change and improve human health and livelihoods.

These solutions include things such as planting trees to replenish forests, reconnecting rivers to floodplains and restoring wetlands.

“In New Zealand, initiatives such as “daylighting” stormwater drains, riparian planting in urban environments, and fencing and planting in rural environments as well as water sensitive urban design (WSUD) features are already providing for sustainable solutions.”

But he says there is a lot more work to do.

“New Zealanders are becoming increasingly aware and the government understands that there is a need to improve our performance in water management to provide for a sustainable approach to water.

“For example the Land and Water Forum, a focus for debate on key water policy issues for the past decade, is working on a myriad of issues around improving water quality, and providing Government with advice on how to have a fair system for allocating nutrient and sediment loads.”