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Drinking Water Supply Risk Management

Ministry Working To Assist Drinking Water Suppliers Manage Potential Risks

THE Ministry of Health today released model public health risk management plans, which will provide guidelines for drinking water suppliers to help prevent water supplies from being contaminated by waterborne disease causing organisms such as giardia and cryptosporidium.

The latest Annual Review of the Microbiological Quality of Drinking Water in New Zealand 1999, released last month, shows that while almost 2.65 million New Zealanders were supplied with water that met the national Drinking-water Standards for New Zealand: 1995, some registered water suppliers, servicing 478,000 people, did not have adequate microbiological monitoring procedures in place.

Chief Advisor Safety and Regulation, Dr Bob Boyd said the risk management plans focus on improving quality assurance and developing good management practices so that people can have access to quality drinking water.

"There are about 40 model risk management plans currently out for consultation, which relate to potential causes of problems with drinking water from the raw water collection to the point of delivery to the customer. They suggest ways of preventing problems occurring."

A series of workshops will be held during December for water suppliers and the public to explain how the plans can be used, as well as to provide a forum for comment and suggestions about their use. Submissions on the models close at the end of February.

"The aim of the model risk management plans is to improve the public health management of all drinking water supplies and prevent bugs such as giardia, cryptosporidium, salmonella, campylobacter, typhoid and cholera getting into the water in the first place."

Dr Boyd said the Ministry is encouraging all drinking water suppliers to use the model risk management plans and adapt them to suit their needs. He said that while the risk management plans were voluntary at this stage, the situation may change in the future.

"A proposed amendment to the Health Act 1956 is currently being drafted which, if approved, would provide a statutory framework for public health managed drinking water suppliers. The proposal is expected to be presented to Cabinet later this month."


For further information contact; Selina Gentry, Media Advisor, 04 496 2483 or 025 277 5411 Internet Address:

Background information about drinking water quality

Eighty-five per cent of the New Zealand population is serviced by 103 drinking water supplies, each servicing more than 5,000 people. The remaining 15 per cent of the population is serviced by over 1800 supplies, each supplying less than 5,000 people.

Annual reviews of the microbiological quality of drinking water in New Zealand are conducted each year by the Institute of Environmental Science and Research Ltd for the Ministry of Health. The reviews summarise information collected by HHSs on the microbiological quality of community drinking-water supplies. This is part of a organised campaign which started in 1992 to improve the quality of New Zealand's drinking-water.

New drinking water standards released recently by the Ministry of Health contain enhanced measures for making drinking water safe. The Drinking-Water Standards for New Zealand 2000 replace earlier Drinking-Water Standards for New Zealand 1995 and will take effect from 1 January 2001. The new standards detail how to assess the quality and safety of drinking-water. The Standards define drinking-water as: water intended to be used for human consumption, food preparation, utensil washing, oral hygiene or personal hygiene. The Standards provide criteria applicable to all drinking-water (except bottled water, which must comply with the Food Act 1981).

The new Drinking-Water Standards for New Zealand 2000: set out the requirements for compliance with the Standards facilitate consistency of application throughout New Zealand protect public health while minimising unnecessary monitoring specify sampling methods used to ensure the water complies with the standards take into account advances in knowledge of pathogenic protozoa such as Giardia and Cryptosporidium include new measures to detect waterborne protozoa and maximum acceptable values for cyanobacteria [blue-green algae] include six cyanotoxins and sixteen pesticides not previously included in the old drinking water standards raise the acceptable level of boron from 0.3 milligrams per litre [mg/L] to 1.4 mg/L.

Copies of Annual Review of the Microbiological Quality of Drinking Water in New Zealand 1999, Drinking Water Standards for New Zealand 2000 and are available on the Ministry of Health website

The Model Public Health Risk Management Plans should be available on the Ministry of Health website shortly.


Selina Gentry Media Liaison Communications DDI: 496 2483 Fax: 496 2010 Ministry of Health

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