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Wellington’s Water Woes Reflect National Problem

Water utilities right across the country face major challenges to upgrade and maintain their underground three waters network.

Water New Zealand’s Technical Manager, Noel Roberts says Wellington’s waste water woes are not unique to the capital city.

He says Water New Zealand’s latest performance assessment, the National Performance Review, shows that most councils around the country have pipes in poor or very poor condition.

“As well, it’s been estimated that improving wastewater infrastructure to meet higher expectations such as the national policy statement on freshwater, along with climate change challenges, will push costs into the billions. Nationally more than $970M was spent on wastewater systems last year.”

He says better monitoring of the condition of pipes could help prevent major sewage spillages.

“It’s important to know where to prioritise pipe replacement and maintenance according to risk and consequence and this can be done through better assessment and analytics.

Water New Zealand is about to run a pipe renewals seminar series around the country for water service managers to bring best practice guidance to improving condition assessments.

He says currently each household in Wellington pays $459 a year on wastewater which is below the national average of $492 per year.

“Spending on wastewater has trailed drinking water, with the city’s recent focus on building resilience. It is likely the city will need more dollars injected into the wastewater network.

“Consumers also need to play their part and ensure they don’t treat the sewer network as a rubbish bin.

“Flushing products such as wet wipes down the toilet leads to blocked pipes and sewage overflows.

“Last year New Zealand rate payers spent $16-m on unlocking pipes caused by blockages and this is money that could have been better spend elsewhere – such as pipe renewals.”

Water New Zealand is a national not-for-profit organisation which promotes the sustainable management and development of New Zealand’s three waters (drinking water, wastewater and storm water). Water New Zealand is the country's largest water industry body, providing leadership and support in the water sector through advocacy, collaboration and professional development. Its 1,800 members are drawn from all areas of the water management industry including regional councils and territorial authorities, consultants, suppliers, government agencies, academia and scientists.

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