New Zealand Drinking Water Reform, Your Business and Your Private Water Supply

Oct 14, 2021 | Insights

Understanding more about the upcoming Drinking Water reform, and how it affects your business

“As a business owner with a private water supply, I am sure you will have mixed feelings about there not being a local council operated water supply to connect to. On the one hand, having a safe and plentiful supply of water would be one less business risk to deal with but on the other, being self-sufficient, brings its unique advantages and independence, says Maria Johnson, Water Sector Leader at GWE Consulting Engineers. Water that is supplied to a business like yours, such as a cafe, winery, brewery, restaurant, tourist accommodation, rest home, school or childcare centre is typically from a bore, roof water catchment or surface water source (or a combination of all). The challenges you face providing secure drinking water for your customers and staff are there, all year round.”

Even council-owned and operated water supplies are not immune from risks of a failure in supply or worse still, a contamination event that leads to people getting sick. In a rare, but quite recent event (2016), there was a widespread outbreak of gastroenteritis in the Havelock North water supply. The consequences of this event led to a Government Inquiry which found there was a myriad of problems in the sector ranging from poor leadership through to a shortage of adequate science and engineering skills required to provide consistent, risk-free drinking water to the general public. The Inquiry recommended a significant reform of the water sector.

In response, the government has recently passed new legislation, the Water Services Act. The primary purpose of the legislation is to ensure that any entity that supplies water to customers, staff or the public will have new rules to comply with to ensure there is a safe supply of drinking water for everybody. “This reform will have an effect on your business and you will have to adapt to the changes. You may choose to be an early adopter for brand reasons and peace of mind or leave it till later to see how the market responds, says Maria”.

The reform package has also created a new water services regulator called Taumata Arowai and sets out the methods by which Taumata Arowai will administer and monitor all drinking water supplies in NZ (public and private).

New Requirements apply to small sized private supplies

The Water Services Act imposes a range of duties and obligations on drinking water suppliers, even the very small suppliers (serving less than 50 customers and staff on a daily basis) that did not have requirements under the existing Drinking Water Standards for New Zealand.

For example, Taumata Arowai will be the regulator of the following types of private drinking water supplies:
A café, restaurant, hotel, rest home, school, commercial kitchen, body corporate or other small business supplied by a rainwater tank

  • A bore or other drinking water supply to a multi-apartment building
  • A bore or other water source supplying commercial business or community hall
  • A bore or other drinking water supply to a group of residences within a rural property

Registration, Monitoring and Reporting Requirements

Taumata Arowai, will ensure that Councils and small drinking water suppliers meet the requirements of the drinking water standards, as well as the expectations of the Water Services Act.

As a small drinking water supplier, your responsibilities for treatment, planning, monitoring and reporting will be less onerous; however, the minimum water treatment process requirements will be defined and imposed by the Water Services Act, based on the size of your supply.

Taumata Arowai will also have powers to take enforcements steps to ensure you, as a drinking water supplier, are complying with all the above requirements.

Regular water quality monitoring will demonstrate compliance and reduce risks to health

Planning for the New Requirements

All the drinking water suppliers will have between 1 and 4 years (depending on sizes) to register their supply with Taumata Arowai and renew their registration annually. As a drinking water supplier, you will be required to communicate with Taumata Arowai, report on any transgression to the Drinking Water Standards and take remedial actions.

Recommendations and further Information

If you are supplying drinking water as part of your business or other private treaty arrangement, we recommend you start investigating what this means for you in respect of delivering safe drinking water and complying with the new legislation.

“The most important aspect of the reform is the safety of drinking water and managing risks. The targets for water quality haven’t changed, it’s about getting it right, consistently. Small supplies have unique challenges, and the best thing you can do is start early so you understand the risks and plan to make the changes for a safe and reliable water supply, says Maria.”

For further information please get in touch

Maria Johnson, Water Sector Leader
p. 021 288 8782

About GWE Consultants Ltd

GWE is a growth company and a leading provider of professional engineering services to the infrastructure and land/property development sectors. We specialise in environmental services, geotechnical, land development, drinking water, wastewater engineering and stormwater management.

We currently have a number of opportunities for graduate, mid-career and senior engineers and scientists. To find out more visit our careers page.