Working towards safe drinking water for everyone
Community and Public Health no longer provides drinking water services within Canterbury, South Canterbury and the West Coast as of Monday 15th November 2021.
Taumata Arowai is the new Water Services Regulatory Agency. Community and Public Health’s Drinking Water Assessors (DWAs) assisted the new compliance officers from Taumata Arowai during the transition period.
Most people are on a water supply owned by either their local district or city council. So you should contact your local council if you have any concerns about your water supply.
Registered drinking water suppliers will need to notify Taumata Arowai if they have any issues which could affect the safety or compliance of the drinking water they provide.
Registered suppliers can notify Taumata Arowai of issues using an online form. You can also call Taumata Arowai 24/7 on 04 889 8350 if there’s an immediate risk to public health.
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 encourages the protection of drinking water sources and improvements in water quality by submitting on resource consents and regional or district plans.
Download or read a frequently asked questions (FAQ) sheet:
Findings released on study into asbestos cement pipes
Christchurch City Council Newsline: 13th April 2022
An Otago University study aided by Christchurch City Council has revealed low levels of asbestos in Christchurch’s water supply, but there are no immediate concerns for public health.
The study was published today in the International Water Association’s “Water Supply Journal”. It found that ageing underground pipes in many Christchurch suburbs are leaching asbestos fibres into the city’s main water supply.
The study was done by Otago University’s School of Geography, with technical assistance from the Council.
The authors of the study stress there are no immediate concerns for public health, but call for asbestos cement pipes to be prioritised for replacement.
Christchurch City Council’s Acting Head of Three Waters Tim Drennan says the Otago University study only sampled water in Christchurch. However, it is likely that asbestos fibres would be detected in most water supplies as asbestos cement pipes were widely used up until about 40 years ago.
Christchurch’s underground infrastructure is subject to an ongoing renewal programme to maintain and improve our water supply network. Pipe renewals have been increasing since the 1990s and now only 21 percent of the water supply pipes in Christchurch are asbestos cement pipes.
“Some of those asbestos cement pipes have reached the end of their life and will be replaced through our renewal programme, but others still have life left in them,” Mr Drennan says.
“We run a risk-based prioritisation process for pipe renewals. We look at not only how likely a pipe is to fail, but how bad the consequences may be to the community as a whole.
“We don’t prioritise based solely on the type of material a pipe is made out of. If we did that, we would end up renewing pipes that were functioning without issue before other pipes that were causing numerous and frequent water supply shutdowns to residents and businesses,” said Mr Drennan.
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
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.
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 for Water Suppliers
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.
The Director-General of Health will soon be able to decide whether a community drinking water supply should be fluoridated, after the Health (Fluoridation of Drinking Water) Amendment Bill was 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.