Working towards safe drinking water for everyone

Safe Drinking Water from the tap. 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;
  • Submitting on resource consents and regional or district plans; and
  • Contributing to processes related to the Canterbury Water Management strategy.

Download or read frequently asked questions (FAQ) sheet:

Read the 2011 CDHB Position Statement on the Canterbury Water Management Strategy [124kB PDF].

Read the 2003 CDHB Position Statement on Water Fluoridation [113kB PDF].

Christchurch moving closer to chlorine-free water

Christchurch City Council Newsline: 11th January 2019

Mayor Lianne Dalziel takes a drink of water during the Council meeting.Water Supply Improvement Programme Manager Helen Beaumont provides an update on how the work is tracking – with the clock ticking on the Council’s self-imposed deadline to end temporary chlorination of the water supply within 12 months.

It has been a year since the Council voted to temporarily add chlorine to the city’s drinking water supply in response to advice from the Canterbury Medical Officer of Health. Over the past few months we have made significant progress on upgrading the wells that supply our water so that we can get back to having an unchlorinated water supply.

We have upgraded 25 per cent of our wells to date – by volume of water produced – to bring them up to a standard that exceeds the present requirements. We’ve set the bar higher than required because we anticipate that more stringent standards will be introduced by the Government shortly.

Upgrading each well takes between two and six weeks and we can only work on a limited number of wells at any one time because we still to need supply water to homes and businesses. We have been running a water conservation campaign asking people to use less water so we can continue work on the wells and we really appreciate the efforts people have been making.

We expect to have completed interim upgrades on 19 below-ground wells and raised another 41 wells above ground by May, bringing the total number of secure wells to 98. Those wells collectively provide more than 60 per cent of the city’s water supply.

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


Download or order resources from the Community Health Information Centre.


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:

Kathryn Russell
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 December 2017.

Download or view the map to find out the nitrate risk from private wells or bores in your region or area.

Water restrictions now in place in many areas

The demand for water in summer can double or even triple. This can mean that those on the local reticulated supply are using water faster than it can be pumped or reserviors can be filled – leading to supply issues and reduced pressure. Reduced pressure is worrying as it can impact the effectiveness of activities like fire-fighting.
We all need to do our bit to conserve water to stop further water restrictions.

Check out your local council’s website for any water restrictions currently in place, as well as water saving tips.

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:

  • drinking;
  • 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.

Page last updated: 18/02/2019

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