Minister of Health Makes Urgent and Minor Changes to the Drinking-Water Standards

19 Dec 2018

As you will know, on 20 November 2018, Hon Dr David Clark, Minister of Health, announced that he "is making changes to Drinking Water Standards which help keep New Zealanders safe from waterborne illness."

The Minister of Health has now issued the Drinking-Water Standards for New Zealand 2005 (Revised 2018) to supersede the Drinking-Water Standards for New Zealand 2005 (Revised 2008).A Notice has been published this afternoon in the Gazette and can be found at

The Drinking-Water Standards for New Zealand provide requirements for drinking-water safety by specifying the maximum amounts of substances or organisms or contaminants or residues that may be present in drinking-water, criteria for demonstrating compliance with the Standards and remedial action to be taken in the event of non-compliance with the different aspects of the standards.

The Standards now require routine monitoring of total coliforms; and enumeration testing for E.coli and total coliforms.

During consultation with affected laboratories, some laboratory operators noted that presence/absence testing is required as part of food safety requirements, and action is taken on a positive presence result (so enumeration is not required). We have talked to officials at the Ministry of Primary Industries and they advise that they will provide advice to food industry members so these laboratories can continue to use presence/absence testing for food safety reasons. Some other laboratories raised concerns about the time required to achieve accreditation for enumeration, noting there may be a break in services while the laboratory gains accreditation. We have informed IANZ of the proposed change to the Standards so they are aware some laboratories may be urgently seeking accreditation. We have also been informed that IDEXX Laboratories are actively working with some laboratories to assist them set up the new methods.

In addition, there are a number of minor changes to the Standards to clarify or correct text within the Standards, to simplify compliance procedures, or to move guidance material from the (mandatory) Standards to (voluntary) Guidelines.

The Drinking-Water Standards for New Zealand 2005 (Revised 2018) supersede the Drinking-Water Standards for New Zealand 2005 (Revised 2008) and come into force on 1 March 2019. A copy of the Drinking-Water Standards for New Zealand 2005 (Revised 2018) is displayed on the website of the Ministry of Health at

Copies may be viewed free of charge at the library of the Ministry of Health at 133 Molesworth Street Wellington, or on application to a drinking-water assessor at any District Health Board public health unit in New Zealand.

As the Minister also noted in his media statement on 20 November 2018 “A comprehensive review of the Standards is also being carried out, led by an independent Drinking-Water Advisory Committee. I expect proposed changes from this review to be released for public consultation by mid-2019.”

View the summary of changes document here.