New Zealand’s drinking water has become unsafe for many Kiwis, as more than 750,000 people are exposed to substandard water supplies, according to a government inquiry.
The analysis showed that the number of affected people account for 20 per cent of the water supply system. The inquiry claimed that these households drink from “not demonstrably safe” sources. The Havelock North incident in 2016 prompted the launch of the investigation.
The inquiry’s most prominent findings involved the Ministry of Health, which it accused of failing to address a widespread non-compliance with water standards. Aside from government intervention, the report also cited several risks to water contamination. These included damaged water pipes and the close distance of drinking water sources to sewage systems.
Some other threats to safe drinking water include around 1,000 landfill sites, climate change and damages from earthquakes. Water infrastructure such as old pipelines also poses risks to clean water sources. The cost of replacing them would require an estimated $2.2 billion. Households can also do their part of maintaining clean drinking water, and it does not have to cost a fortune. These include contracting certified plumbers to do work around the house.
Infrastructure NZ provided several recommendations following the release of the government inquiry. The group said that implementing metered use on drinking water and wastewater may reduce demand by 15 per cent. As a result, it may limit the need for “expensive new water sources, treatment and distribution networks.”
Water New Zealand CEO John Pfahlert also advised several reforms such as the establishment of an independent regulatory body. Treatment systems for all potable water systems and a training programme for all operators would be necessary as well, he added.
Clean water remains important to prevent the outbreak of diseases, which would lead to more severe problems that require solutions involving money and time.