Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink!

Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink!

New Zealand has certainly been subject to a lot of water this year, with floods in many parts of the country and a major water contamination scare, which has reminded us about the power of Mother Nature and put the security of our water supplies under close scrutiny.  To take just three examples:

  1. The Havelock North Water supply crisis in August 2016 resulted from a surface pond contaminating the town’s bore water supply, leading to a campylobacter outbreak in the town, making over 5000 people violently ill and has been linked to three deaths.
  2. The “Tasman tempest” in March in Auckland resulted in two months of rain falling overnight in the ranges southeast of Auckland, causing a 100 fold deterioration in the quality of water entering the Ardmore water treatment plant which supplies two thirds of Auckland’s water, leading to Aucklanders being asked to “save 20” (use 20 litres less a day) until proper supply could be restored.
  3. In Canterbury, there is widespread concern over the effect of dairying and large scale irrigation schemes on the region’s surface and groundwater resources, particularly in relation to nutrient contamination.

At Fraser Thomas we’ve been busy working on a wide variety of water related projects:

  • A new sportsfield facility, with the water supply for a proposed changing rooms and sportsfield irrigation to be provided primarily by rainwater harvesting and a groundwater bore supply.
  • Water sensitive design, involving the reuse of at source detention storage, rain gardens, swales, wetlands and proprietary stormwater treatment devices for a range of residential, commercial and industrial sites.
  • Flood risk assessments ranging from small infill developments on sites subject to overland flowpaths and flooding to flood modelling for large greenfields developments of up to 100 lots.
  • Reviews of leachate flow balancing facilities at several major landfills, where this year’s rain has challenged the existing storm event storage.

All of these projects play a small part towards better use of our water resources and protecting the environment.

It seems to me that abundant, clean “water” is something that many New Zealanders have taken for granted – our “clean, green image” is something we have managed to maintain for many years by virtue of our relatively small population. “Water” has moved up the news radar in recent times and the water issues are now commonly discussed and has even become an election issue, with politicians talking about some form of tax on water, for commercial water bottlers and irrigation scheme users.

I believe water issues will continue to grow in importance, and rightly so, particularly as our population grows,  competition for water increases, and the calls for water quality improvements to our surface and groundwater resources become louder. Having a young family, my hope is that my children and their children may enjoy clean water into the future. As the Maori proverb says: Ko au te awa, Ko te awa ko au – I am the river and the river is me.

Sean Finnigan, Director Environmental Engineering