Providing their own water storage is likely to become more common for rural home owners as water demand increases in the Western Bay of Plenty.
Western Bay of Plenty District Council’s utilities manager Kelvin Hill says while council didn’t have to impose water restrictions this summer, supplies to some areas were tight.
Western Bay of Plenty District Council’s utilities manager Kelvin Hill says water from the region’s aquifers is more than 100 years old.
“We are encouraging property owners in some areas of our rural district, particularly on the fringes of our water supply system, to have their own water storage and pumping systems but they won’t need to be completely self-sufficient from the council system.”
Because of their elevation relative to council’s storage system, a number of the most affected homes experience a drop in pressure or even loss of supply during times of peak water use, including for irrigation.
Kelvin says if tanks were installed, they would still be filled from council’s mains to ensure residents had sufficient supply and so were not affected by peak demand situations and a loss of water supply. He’s also keen to see growers encouraged to use irrigation at night, when domestic demand is lower.
Council draws its water from aquifers which were able to meet demand this summer, without the need of water restrictions.
“We were fortunate because other neighbouring districts did have to impose water restrictions. However, we did ask that people be more conservative with water to ensure this situation did not occur.”
Every summer council puts up water use signs in its rural communities and Kelvin says these, together with advertising, helped make people aware of the need to conserve water.
Water metres and the charges council makes have also had a positive effect on water use.
“However, people don’t pay for water. Council charges to extract, treat and deliver it, but not for the water itself; and it’s good value for consumers.
“A 1.5 litre bottle of water costs between $2 and $3 while 1000 litres of council’s water delivered to your property costs around $1.”
Western BOP water does not have fluoride added however a small amount of chlorine is added to treat any bugs which may be in the reticulation pipes. In areas such as Pongakawa, where the bore water has high natural levels of iron and magnesium, it does need extra treatment and filtration.
One hundred years
“Water from the aquifers is more than 100 years old. At no stage this summer, did the supply drop to levels which would have meant bringing in water restrictions.”
However, Kelvin says it’s unknown what the long-term effects of drier summers, changes in annual rainfall and increased draw-off will have on the underground resources.
“We do know, from research conducted by the Bay of Plenty Regional Council that water resources, including from bores, are reaching over-allocation in parts of the bay, rural areas south of Te Puke in particular.
“And this is an area which is forecasted to experience population growth and an increase in the horticultural industry.”
While council has a legal obligation to supply clean drinking water to its residents, Kelvin is a fan of urban and rural home owners installing small rainwater tanks for garden watering, as it’s better for the environment in the long-term.
Kelvin recently completed a thesis on water supply within the Western Bay of Plenty district and his research showed water safety – quality and safeness to drink – is top of the public’s list of priorities for the water they consume.
Other factors, such as uninterrupted supply, smell and taste came next, with cost well down the list. Having fluoride in the water was of little concern to the wider community and his research in fact confirmed consumers prefer minimal chemicals be added to water supply.