Report signals major challenges for waste water improvement

Report signals major challenges for waste water improvement

24 October 2018

A new report has confirmed that many small communities will be faced with major financial challenges in order to meet new regulatory requirements to improve the quality of wastewater discharges.

The GHD/Boffa-Miskell report, commissioned by the Department of Internal Affairs as part of their three waters reforms, says the cost to local authorities could be between $1.4-billion and $2.1-billion – up to four times the estimated cost of fixing New Zealand’s drinking water system.

Water New Zealand CEO John Pfahlert says these costs are alarming because many local authorities currently fail to meet their existing discharge consents, let alone new freshwater management requirements.

He says half the wastewater in this country is discharged into fresh water and more than half of that water comes from settling ponds which produce poor quality effluent compared to more modern mechanical systems.

John Pfahlert says small communities would face the biggest financial challenges. The report says the average cost of upgrading wastewater treatment plants across New Zealand would be $1,138 per household over 25 years. But for people who live in communities of five hundred or fewer people, the cost would balloon to $3,576 per household.

Eighty-two percent of the waste water treatment plants that require upgrading are servicing communities of 500 or fewer people.

“It is clear that there is an urgent need to upgrade many waste water treatment plants and a serious need to find an equitable way to share the costs across communities,” he says.

“Improving the quality of waste water to an acceptable standard will be even more costly than fixing our drinking water system. That is why we would urge the government to address the delivery of all three waters – drinking, storm and wastewater – when it embarks on its reforms.

He says New Zealanders have made it clear that they want our waterways and rivers cleaned up and made swimmable and this will require changes to the way water services, including waste and stormwater, are funded.

Council Environment Freshwater Wastewater