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Accessing domestic water after an earthquake

Accessing domestic water after an earthquake

Water New Zealand with Opus and the University of Canterbury QuakeCentre has produced guidelines which will help communities define what level of water access and service citizens can expect after an earthquake.

“The Christchurch earthquakes highlighted the fragility of water infrastructure in the event of a major quake – and taught us more than a few things about the importance of seismic resilience of water pipes,” said John Pfahlert, CEO of Water New Zealand.

Mr Pfahlert said most people never think about the functioning of water pipeline systems until they fail.

“This paper will be the first in a series of guidelines on assessing system vulnerability, estimating the how long it will take to restore service and what is needed to be done ahead of any incidents to improve resilience,” he said.

“Building a resilient water delivery service begins with a clear understanding of what service is expected. The first step in this is a community defining Levels of Service as well as the costs, risks and compromises associated with providing this,” said Mr Pfahlert.

The guidance document defines a framework of Levels of Service performance measures and will help communities start thinking about what assets exist and how they will be affected from an earthquake. For example, it explains the state of the network to communities; it will help track recovery to normal levels of service after damage caused; and can be a management tool to assist engineers and asset managers to explain investment needed to improve the resilience of networks.

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Mr Pfahlert said that as part of the process of building resilience and these assets are upgraded or replaced, many difficult decisions will need to be made with respect to the trade-offs between Levels of Service, capital costs, operating costs and management of risk.

“The current replacement value of the water pipeline assets in New Zealand is about NZ$45 billion. The wastewater network has the highest replacement value at around NZ$18 billion, followed by drinking water assets at NZ$16 billion and storm water at NZ$11 billion.

(Figures from the Department of Internal Affairs analysis of 2014 Local Authority Annual reports.)

“One key lesson from the Canterbury Earthquakes is that insurance cannot be relied upon as a sole risk mitigation strategy,” he said.

See the full document:


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