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Search for based emergency water sources nears completion

16 March 2018

Search for land-based emergency water sources nears completion

Wellington Water is close to completing its search for local water sources at parks, hospitals, and schools in metropolitan Wellington.

Drilling at 15 sites since last May has so far confirmed six locations for new emergency wells, part of an emergency network that will supply water from day eight after a major earthquake. Investigations at the final three sites will be completed by the end of the month.

Following a major quake, residential water supply could be out for up to 100 days or more in parts of Wellington. “The emergency network is part of a regional response to this,” says Wellington Water’s community engagement manager Alex van Paassen.

“But even if you live next door to one of these wells, people shouldn’t think they don’t need to do anything to be prepared at home, as it will take time to get the emergency network operating after an event.

“It’s vital that people know they’ll need to rely on water they’ve stored at home after an earthquake or other emergency. Having enough water stored at home is just part and parcel of being a Wellingtonian – you should be aiming for 20 litres for every person, per day, for those first seven days.”

As well as safe drinking water, households should have plans for what to do with toilet waste.

The emergency water network will supply more than 20 community water stations and 300 water collection points from wells, streams and rivers in Wellington, Porirua, Upper Hutt and Lower Hutt. It is the result of a partnership between all the four city councils and central government, and is aimed for completion in mid-2018.

“Our goal is to be able to supply every Wellingtonian with 20 litres of water every day, via these collection points. We’ve balanced the selection of locations against the supply of water available, population numbers, likelihood of damage to the roading network, and the location of existing reservoirs.”

The design of the network assumes the worst from a major quake, including that many parts of Wellington will be cut off from neighbouring suburbs. The water stations will help communities be self-sufficient for water supply, so people won’t be forced to travel across landslips or other potential hazards to collect water.

Alex van Paassen says a team of hydrogeologists analysed the Wellington region for potential water sources, and the drilling programme has investigated a total of 15 sites, starting at Kenepuru Hospital in May 2017.

The groundwater investigations were successful at six locations so far. Each new well needs to provide a minimum of one-to-two litres of water every second, have adequate water quality, and the support of each local council and the community for a water station to be established.

Groundwater investigations at Huntleigh Park in Crofton Downs, and Glenside Reserve began last week. These sites will complete Wellington Water’s land-based drilling programme. If the groundwater is not suitable, alternative options will need to be considered around these sites. This includes mobile units to treat water from streams in a process similar to desalination.

“Establishing the emergency water network within just 12 months is an ambitious target. But resuming water supply to our customers is one of our highest priorities. It may’ve been some time since our last shake, but no one in Wellington should be thinking about ‘if it happens’ – a significant seismic event is inevitable for us.”


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