We supply over 140 million litres (ML) of water per day (on average) to Upper Hutt, Lower Hutt, Porirua and Wellington.
Our supply serves a resident population of about 400,000. So, on average we provide about 358 litres per resident each day, or 3-4 bathtubs each. Not all of this water is used in homes. City council estimates show that households use a bit over 60% of our total supply. Other users include industry, businesses, schools, hospitals, the fire service and councils.
Catchments and storage lakes
Our water comes from three sources:
- Hutt River/Te Awakairangi
- Combined flow of the Wainuiomata and Orongorongo rivers
- Waiwhetu Aquifer - a natural underground reservoir beneath the Hutt Valley that is fed by river-water seeping down into the ground
The river sources are supplied from special catchment areas that are protected to keep pollution to a minimum. They are upstream of housing, away from people and controlled for pests.
We only take and use the water we need from the rivers. We ensure enough water remains flowing down stream so that the natural habitat can thrive and the rivers can continue to be used for recreational activities. There are times where there isn’t enough for us to take what required to meet public demand, so when the water in the rivers gets low, typically during the summer months, we have to supplement our supply with water stored in our two large storage lakes (Macaskill Lakes at Te Marua).
These storage lakes hold approximately 3,350 million litres.
Hutt Water Collection Area
The Hutt Water Collection Area covers almost 9,000 hectares of bush-clad mountains and valleys at the southern edge of the Remutaka Ranges. The collection area is about equal in size to a square with the length of each side the same as the distance between Wellington's railway station and Petone. Rainwater collects in tributary streams that flow into the Hutt River. We have a weir (low dam) at Kaitoke, just north of Upper Hutt, where water is taken from the river, strained to remove sticks, leaves and silt, and piped through tunnels to the Te Marua Water Treatment Plant. We are allowed to take up to 150 million litres of water per day from the Hutt River, provided an adequate flow is maintained downstream of the weir. The Hutt Water Collection Area provides about 40 percent of the water we supply each year.
Macaskill Lakes at Te Marua
We have two large storage lakes at Te Marua - the Macaskill Lakes - as back-up to the Hutt River supply. The lakes are filled from the river when it is clean and there is plenty of water available. Stored water is pumped back to the treatment plant when there is not enough water in the river to meet public demand, when the river is too dirty - after heavy rainfall - or when it is in flood and the intake is closed to prevent rocks and gravel from entering the intake pipes.
The Macaskill Lakes are 17.3 metres deep and have a combined useable capacity of approximately 3,350 million litres, or enough to meet average water use for around 23 days.
Wainuiomata/Orongorongo Water Collection Area
The Wainuiomata/Orongorongo Water Collection Area is part of the Rimutaka Ranges to the east of Wainuiomata. The collection area covers 7,600 hectares. Five low dams (weirs) with intake pipes provide water to the Wainuiomata Water Treatment Plant. Weirs on the Wainuiomata River and George Creek provide around 15 percent of our annual water supply. In the Orongorongo Valley, weirs on the Orongorongo River, Big Huia Creek and Little Huia Creek provide around five percent of annual water supply. A 3.2 kilometre long access and pipeline tunnel links the Orongorongo Valley intakes to the Wainuiomata Valley.
We must leave a minimum water flow equivalent to 8.6 million litres per day in the Wainuiomata and Orongorongo Rivers, downstream of our weirs. Unlike Te Marua, there is no untreated water storage at Wainuiomata. If river levels are very low or the rivers are in flood the treatment plant is turned off temporarily.
Waiwhetu artesian aquifer
The Waiwhetu artesian aquifer is a zone of water-holding sand, gravel and boulders beneath the Hutt Valley. Water from the Hutt River starts to flow underground around Taita Gorge. From Melling southwards, the water becomes naturally pressurised beneath a layer of hard clay. This pressurised zone, the Waiwhetu artesian aquifer, stretches as far south as the harbour. It is estimated to be up to 70 metres thick at its western edge against the Wellington fault line, and 20 metres thick at the eastern edge of the harbour. The pressure in the aquifer has resulted in several fresh water springs in the harbour floor.
Water takes more than 12 months to pass through the aquifer to our wells and is naturally filtered while underground. We monitor the aquifer closely to ensure we leave enough water in it to maintain pressure, so that seawater cannot enter via the harbour springs. The Waiwhetu aquifer provides around 40 percent of the annual water supply, but this can increase to nearly 70% on a daily basis in summer when river supplies dry up. This makes the aquifer critical for our drought resilience.