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Water Crisis May Cause Infections; Urgent Action Required

The Waikato River Authority is asking Local Government minister Nanaia Mahuta to launch an independent inquiry into how Auckland's water crisis has come about.

Scientist Sir Ray Avery says the government should look into the operational and board management of Watercare (Auckland) as a matter of urgent priority.

Crown spokesperson Dylan Tahau has said a failure of leadership and forward planning has led to Auckland city's water crisis.

The drought has put a spotlight on these failings rather than being the sole cause of the water shortage.

Auckland’s water shortage has highlighted the lack of planning with respect to Watercare infrastructure and planning, Sir Ray Avery says.

“Just how safe and reliable is our current reticulated water supply and how will the rapidly dropping water levels affect water quality and the health of Aucklanders.”

Avery has been designing, commissioning and validating commercial potable water supplies in Europe, Africa and Asia for more than 50 years. He says Auckland could be in real trouble if reservoir levels continue to decline.

“Anyone practised in the art of water purification systems reading Watercare’s annual quality report would be alarmed at the lack of quality control that Watercare has with respect to delivering safe water to Auckland consumers.

“Our current reticulated water supplies are not world class. To start with we have third world water quality standards.

“The World Health Organisation and the United States Environmental Protection Agency standards specify the amount of turbidity in town supply waters should be no more that one nephelometric turbidity unit but the New Zealand standards allow up to two and a half times this amount in our domestic water supplies.

“Water turbidity is caused by particles suspended or dissolved in water that can include sediment fine organic and inorganic matter, organic compounds, algae, and bacteria.

“So why are turbidity standards so important? High water turbidity effects the ability of sanitising agents like chlorine to disinfect bacteriologically contaminated water.

“International outbreaks of mass gastrointestinal illness have been linked to incidents in which turbidity exceeded acceptable limits.

“As our water reservoirs drop there will be an inevitable increase in the turbidity of the water and this will increase the bacteriological loading and the need for further water treatment to make water safe for consumption.

“The 2018-2019 Watercare annual quality report says 98.9 percent of all samples collected from the Ardmore water treatment plant returned results for chlorine residual greater than the governmental guidelines.

“The report also shows that there is a huge variability in the pH of water distributed to consumers with some pH levels outside of the government guidelines.

“Given that pH has a major impact of the effectiveness of chlorination and disinfection of the water supply, this raises major concerns regarding the reliability of the quality of water distributed to Auckland consumers.

“Watercare often fails to deliver water that meets government guidelines so there is a very real possibility of a mass gastrointestinal illness outbreak as reservoir water levels fall.

“Watercare chief executive Raveen Jaduram is paid $510,000 a year and last year 20 Watercare staff were paid bonuses totalling north of $500,000”.

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