Waikato pipeline not delivering the goods

Wednesday 28 April 2010, 4:51PM
By Waitakere City Council


Waitakere Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse is disappointed that Watercare’s promised solution to Auckland’s water shortage, the Waikato River pipeline, has not delivered.

“I have always campaigned for smart water use over expensive pipes.

“Our city reduced our water use by 40 percent after the drought of 1994 only to be marched into a massively expensive Waikato Pipeline. They said it would stop anything like that crisis ever happening again.

“Now Watercare is telling us that we’re on the verge of another drought. What goes? Is the intake to the Waikato River blocked?

“For those of us in the West who went all out to conserve our water, it’s a bitter blow.”

She is urging Government to give the new Auckland Council power to put a different approach in place.
“Auckland’s new Council must be able to stop Watercare’s culture of solving everything by pouring concrete. Those powers should be in the Third Bill on Auckland Governance.

“There just doesn’t seem to be any vision for managing Auckland’s water at the moment.”
After the last Auckland drought, plans were drawn up for a pipeline from the Waikato River.

Waitakere City Council argued against it, concerned about the cost and environmental consequences, despite the promise it would solve any future water shortages.

Waitakere took a different and highly successful approach, pushing the sustainable water conservation message at public meetings, via newsletters and by providing money up front for rebates.

Community groups distributed inexpensive ‘gizmos’ to 25,000 households to help them reduce water in toilet flushing by 20 percent. Residents responded by achieving an impressive 35 percent water savings overall.

The city also lead the way in developing consumer campaigns and programmes which help families minimise drinking water wastage.

That approach should be taken to New Zealand, says Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse.

“We’ve got floods in Southland, drought in Northland. It’s easy to see we need a more holistic approach, with incentives for people to use water well.

“It requires vision and a willingness to invest relatively small amounts of money in return for minimising the need to spend millions later on temporary fixes.

“Our campaigns have helped residents to install rain harvesting technologies, water-efficient whiteware and tapware, solar water heating and water-efficient gardens.

“We give financial assistance to residents via discounts and rebates for plumbing raintanks into toilets and laundries.”
Notes for editors

Waitakere City Council's water department EcoWater has a goal to reduce water demand by 25% by 2025. The city has already achieved a reduction per person per day of 10 litres since 1997, down from 167 to 157 litres, and the trend is continuing.

Recent innovative programmes enlist community groups and residents to become ‘water ambassadors’. Their mission is to inspire other people to change to more sustainable practices; water ambassadors as young as five can make a difference to their home water bills. Adult ambassadors share expertise on the latest water saving technologies.

People drink less than five per cent of the mains water supplied to their homes. Most other uses, apart from the shower and sink, do not require potable drinking water. It’s clear we are inefficiently using our expensively produced drinking water. Residents on tank water already know how easy it is to be more water-efficient.

The eco city approach is used in many water-starved areas of the world, such as the United States, Australia and Britain. These countries understand that the supply of freshwater is finite and that only sustainable practices by business and households will enable us to meet the future water needs of our growing population.