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Watercare And The Waikato River

The Waikato River Authority are reported as wanting New Zealanders living in Auckland to pay for more water from the Waikato River and have suggested up to 10 cents a litre, or $20 million a day.

Watercare currently charges Aucklanders 0.001594 cents a litre for water, or $1.594 cents for 1000 litres. This water and wastewater charge by Watercare is for the processing of the raw water feed to provide drinking water and remove and treat wastewater. It does not charge for the water itself.

The average household water bill is about $1000 a year.

When the suggested charge of 10cents per litre is added on we are looking at an increase of 199.94% in the average household water bill.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff requested last week that the Government fast-track the city's application to take an extra 200 million litres a day from the Waikato River.

The Waikato River Authority called on Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta to launch an inquiry into Auckland's water crisis and its potential impact on the river.

Authority co-chair Roger Pikia said Auckland took 17 per cent of its water needs from the river last year and is currently taking 40 per cent, saying it is not sustainable for more and more water to be going out of the Waikato catchment.

He did not say that the water Auckland takes is from the river close to where it flows to the sea and that the take causes less drop in flow than the tidal movement in the area.

"This is not a Waikato versus Auckland issue, this is a Waikato River issue," Pikia said.

This seems to be nothing short of a proposed wealth transfer to a select few.

Why do I say that?

The water in New Zealand is held in joint ownership for the benefit of all the citizens of New Zealand.

How can Aucklanders be asked to pay for something which we already have an ownership of?

The justification offered for the proposed wealth transfer is that the money would be used to maintain and restore the river. The first question to ask therefore should be what is the effect on the river of increasing Auckland’s take?

There is much talk about this take affecting the allocation of water to users upstream of the water intake. There is no evidence that the current or proposed take affects the upstream users or in fact the river itself upstream of the intake point.

As already noted, the take drops the river less than the tide and presumably much less than the high winter flows that could be targeted.

The mean discharge of the Waikato River is 340 cubic metres per second, with the highest flows typically occurring in July and August.

1 cubic meter/second is equal to 86,400,000 litres per day.

Total average flow in litres per day = 340 x 86,400,000

29,376,000,000 litres/day

Therefore we can see that the current consent for the Auckland City water take from the river (150,000,000 litres per day) is equivalent to just over 0.5% of the total average daily flow rates.

To reinforce the point, there is minimal if any adverse effect on the river from abstraction from an area of the river that is in the tidal zone and very close to the river mouth where all of the water is discharged to the Tasman Sea.

Aucklanders could invest $billions in borrowed money on desalinating the ocean. Or they could extract the water from the river before it becomes salty. The primary environmental difference between the two options is the avoided electricity cost and greenhouse gas emissions of the first one.

Andy Loader

Co-Chair P.L.U.G.

Primary Land Users Group

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