Working towards safe drinking water for everyone

Safe drinking water – available to everyone – is a fundamental requirement for public health.

Taumata Arowai is the new Water Services Regulatory Agency. They are committed to ensuring all communities have access to safe drinking water every day. They also have an oversight role in protecting the environment from the impacts of wastewater and stormwater.

Water dripping from a tap. Source: Ashburton District Council.Most people are on a water supply owned by either their local district or city council. The council is responsible for maintaining the water pipes, running the pump stations as well as the treatment plants to remove risks or contaminants. This may include adding chlorine to comply with the current Drinking Water Standards. So contact your local council if you have any concerns about your water supply.

There are also a few smaller water suppliers around the motu/ country, and some people manage their own household water supply.

Repeal of Three Waters legislation

Beehive media release: 14th February 2024

The Coalition Government’s legislative plan to address longstanding issues with local water infrastructure and service delivery took an important step today, with the repeal of the divisive and unpopular Three Waters legislation, Local Government Minister Simeon Brown says.

“Repealing this legislation is a necessary first step in implementing our Local Water Done Well policy, and a key part of our Government’s 100-day plan.

“The vast majority of councils around New Zealand were opposed to the previous Government’s Three Waters reform, and we are delivering on our commitment to restore local council ownership and control of water assets.

“Two further bills will be introduced this year to progress our policy of Local Water Done Well. The first will be introduced and enacted by mid-2024, and the second introduced in December 2024 and enacted by mid-2025.

“Local Water Done Well recognises the importance of local decision-making and flexibility for communities and councils to determine how their water services will be delivered in future. We will do this while ensuring a strong emphasis on meeting rules for water quality and long-term investment in infrastructure.”

Dealing with water-borne disease outbreaks

Drinking water can contain harmful germs such as Cryptosporidium, Giardia, Campylobacter, Salmonella and E. coli O157 that can cause serious illness.
Te Mana Ora | Community and Public Health investigates outbreaks of infectious diseases that may have come from drinking water.

Health risks of nitrates in drinking water from private bores

High levels of nitrate in drinking water may pose a significant health risk for the foetus of pregnant women and formula-fed infants through using drinking water.

Regional councils monitor the nitrate levels in groundwater around their region. Environment Canterbury creates and updates maps showing the nitrate levels across Canterbury.

Get your water tested if it comes from a bore or well

Private well owners are responsible for their own water monitoring, and what frequency to test their water. It is recommended that you test your water when you purchase a property with a private well or bore or drill a new well or bore. Follow-up testing is prudent every 6 to 12 months.

It is important to get your water tested for nitrates if you are pregnant, or have a formula fed baby under 6 months and are on a private bore or well in a ‘yellow’ area. Testing is the only way to detect nitrate as it is tasteless, odourless and colourless.

Find an accredited laboratory available to test your water for nitrate. Often the laboratory will be able to provide you with a suitable bottle and instructions for taking the sample yourself. The result may take a few days.



Download or order resources from the Community Health Information Centre.


Community and Public Health no longer provides drinking water services within Canterbury, South Canterbury and the West Coast as of Monday 15th November 2021.

Getting the facts on fluoride

Water fluoridation is a safe, effective and affordable way to prevent and reduce tooth decay across the whole population. Most tooth decay is preventable, and water fluoridation is a simple way to prevent it.

The most recent nationwide New Zealand survey into oral health showed 40 percent less tooth decay on average for children living in fluoridated areas compared with non-fluoridated areas.

The NZ levels of fluoride used in community water fluoridation are carefully monitored and within the guidelines of the World Health Organization and other public health agencies.

The Director-General of Health can decide whether a community drinking water supply should be fluoridated, after the Health (Fluoridation of Drinking Water) Amendment Bill – passed by Parliament in November 2021. This will ensure a nationally consistent approach to community water fluoridation based on its well-established health benefits.

Private water supplies will not be required to be fluoridated.

Page last updated: 15/04/2024

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