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Community and Public Health in Canterbury (Christchurch)

Community and Public Health Christchurch office (310 Manchester Street)Canterbury/ Waitaha is a diverse region with the sea, plains and mountains. It covers from north of Kaikoura to the Rangitata River in the south, and as far west as Arthur’s Pass. The area is the most populated region in the South Island with nearly 540,000 people, and more than 60 percent living in Christchurch.

The region’s population is predominately Pakeha with those Maori descent making up over 8 percent, those of Asian descent nearly 7 percent and Pacific peoples 2.5 percent, according to the 2013 Census.

The Christchurch office has over 100 staff, with most working in the areas of infectious disease and environmental health, or in educational settings.

The Christchurch office has a Community Health Information Centre, providing health information resources free to the public. Unfortunately you can not visit this Centre to view resources.

Canterbury groundwater quality survey released

Testing groundwater. Source: Environment Canterbury.Environment Canterbury media release: 23rd July 2021

Environment Canterbury has released its annual groundwater quality survey for 2020. The report summarises the current state of groundwater quality throughout the region and provides analysis of trends over the past decade.

Groundwater science manager Carl Hanson said Environment Canterbury collects samples from wells every spring to help understand the state of the resource and assess changes in water quality over time. Groundwater levels are usually highest in spring.

“The results in the latest report are what we expected,” he said. “They are similar to most years, noting that these are ‘snapshot’ surveys.

“Groundwater is vulnerable to contamination, including E. coli and nitrate. 322 wells were sampled region wide for the 2020 survey. E. coli was detected in the samples from 37 (11 percent) of these wells, and the samples from 20 (6 percent) of the wells had nitrate concentrations above the Maximum Acceptable Value (MAV).”

The MAV is the national drinking water standard, set at 50 milligrams per litre for nitrate – equivalent to 11.3 milligrams per litre of nitrate-nitrogen.

Hanson said all wells with nitrate and E. coli above the MAV were privately owned. “The owners of all of these wells have been notified. Most of them are not used for drinking water. Some owners have installed filters if they are drinking the water. Others have replaced the wells, but we still monitor old wells for our long-term trend analyses.”

Nitrate concentrations in groundwater have been increasing for many years, due largely to nutrient losses from agricultural land.

“Environment Canterbury takes nitrate very seriously. Canterbury has some of the strictest land-use rules in New Zealand to protect the region’s water quality. Over time, these steps will help ensure that less nitrate enters Canterbury’s water,” Carl Hanson said.

Environment Canterbury is responsible for the health of all groundwater and surface water in the region. However people with private drinking wells are responsible for ensuring they have a safe supply.

Hanson offers this advice: “Make sure your well is secure and test your water periodically. In most cases, samples can be taken from a kitchen tap and sent to a lab for testing at your own expense.”


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Page last updated: 26/07/2021

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