Working towards safe drinking water for everyone
Safe drinking water – available to everyone – is a fundamental requirement for public health. Drinking water can contain harmful germs such as Cryptosporidium, Giardia, Campylobacter, Salmonella and E. coli O157 that can cause serious illness.
Community and Public Health works on behalf of the Ministry of Health to facilitate improvement in the quality of community drinking water supplies throughout Canterbury, South Canterbury and the West Coast. Staff encourage the protection of drinking water sources and improvements in water quality through the following actions:
- Administering the requirements of the Health (Drinking Water) Amendment Act 2007;
- Assessing water suppliers compliance with the Drinking Water Standards for New Zealand;
- Assessing water safety plans from water suppliers;
- Assisting small water supplies via the Drinking Water Assistance Programme; and
- Submitting on resource consents and regional or district plans.
Download or read frequently asked questions (FAQ) sheet:
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.
- Green areas are where nitrate concentrations in groundwater are always below the Maximum Acceptable Value (MAV).
- Red areas are where nitrate concentrations in groundwater are above the MAV most or all of the time and therefore alternative water sources should be used for drinking.
- Yellow areas are where it is not known if a sample collected from a well will have nitrate concentrations exceeding the MAV and testing is recommended.
Get your water tested if you live in a yellow nitrate area
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.
There are several laboratories that are able to test 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.
Documents and Forms for Water Suppliers
Contact a Drinking Water Assessor for more information:
Ph: +64 3 364 1777
Fax: +64 3 379 6125
Ph: +64 3 687 2600
Fax: +64 688 6091
Contact the Drinking Water Assistance Programme Facilitator:
Ph: +64 3 378 6811
Fax: +64 3 379 6125
Maps of Nitrate Risk in Canterbury Drinking Water
Environment Canterbury creates maps of nitrate risk for the water zones across Canterbury. These maps are current as at March 2020.
Download or view the map to find out the nitrate risk from private wells or bores in your region or area.
What to do if your area is under a boil water notice
A range of hazards and emergencies may contaminate your water supply and make it unsafe to drink or use. A boil water notice will be issued when this happens.
People living in the affected area should boil all water until further notice for:
- making up infant formula;
- preparing food; and
- cleaning teeth.
Find out more about boiling water and hand hygiene when your water is contaminated (Ministry of Health).
Getting the facts on fluoride
The Ministry of Health strongly supports water fluoridation as 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.