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New System For Grading Drinking Water Proposed

CHANGES to the way the safety of drinking water supplies are graded are being proposed by the Ministry of Health.

New Zealanders have always had access to water quality information but changes are being suggested so people have a better picture of water quality from the time it is sourced to the moment it comes out of the tap, said Principal Public Health Engineer Paul Prendergast.

"Drinking water standards have been improving since the current grading system was introduced in 1993 and a new grading system is now needed to reflect the progress made."

The Ministry of Health monitors the quality of drinking water provided by individual suppliers to check it meets standards and has begun encouraging suppliers to adopt a risk management approach.

"In the past, issues such as contaminated water have come to our attention at the time of monitoring. However, through introduction of risk management plans, greater efforts can be made to reduce the risk of contamination."

Mr Prendergast said the grading system needs to reflect this new risk management focus.

"The proposals outlined will give the Ministry of Health a way of measuring the quality of supply and how well suppliers are sticking to their management plan."

Grading will also reflect the quality of raw water for the first time.

About 30 drinking water assessors will also be employed to ensure water quality grading is consistent throughout the country. These assessors will be trained and accredited by a national agency.

The discussion document Draft Protocols for the Public Health Grading of Drinking-Water Supplies released today, outlines four options for integrating public health risk management plans into water grading information. This paper is available from libraries, health protection officers and the Ministry of Health website at www.moh.govt.nz and submissions close on August 31.

Public meetings in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin will also be held from August 14 - 17 to discuss the document's proposals.

ENDS

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