Metropolitan Wellington faces significant pressure on the delivery of safe and reliable drinking water to communities. Due to ageing pipes and reservoirs, population growth and increasing demand, and the need to look after the health and mauri of our water sources, the region needs to take action to address how much water it is using.
Concern about these issues is increasing among our communities. People want to be sure that those responsible for the management of water are doing everything they can to take good care of it. We simply can’t keep taking more and more without demonstrating that we’re using effectively what we already take.
Practical experience of metering, as we have seen in Kapiti recently and in South Wairarapa for some time now, supports research such as that carried out for Wellington Water. Meters help preserve water. Meters on properties help residents understand how much they are using themselves, and get specific information about their efforts to conserve. Meters identify leaks. We know that both private pipes and public pipes are leaking. Just recently in Upper Hutt, a monitor covering about 50 properties helped find a hidden leak wasting 20,000 litres a day. From current evidence, we estimate 20% or more of the water we take and treat is being lost to leaks. Without meters, we have to wait for water to come to the surface before we can remedy them.
Twelve months ago the Water Committee commissioned Wellington Water to look into the broader issue of sustainable water supply. This work showed the region may experience shortages in respect of peak demand within as little as six years.
For these reasons the Wellington Water Committee voted by majority to direct Wellington Water to prepare a detailed business case for residential meters. The alternative is that we keep wasting water because we don’t know where it’s going. That’s not good stewardship of water, and that won’t be acceptable to people.
As the region grows we will eventually have to invest in new storage facilities that allow us to harvest and store water when it’s plentiful. But this will cost hundreds of millions of dollars, and the longer we can defer that, the better. Who knows what technological advances we may be able to adopt to help solve this challenge by 2050, as opposed to 2030?
The proposal put by Wellington Water to the four metropolitan councils is that they include funding for water metering in year four of their long term plans. That leaves room for councils to include the item in their consultation with communities next year and, using information that will be gained from the business case, to fully consult on the introduction of meters ahead of their next LTP in three years’ time.
It’s disappointing that Upper Hutt has chosen not to take that step, but it is pleasing to see that the Porirua, Hutt and Wellington City councils are willing to take up the challenge.