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Half of our water lost in the pipes

Water restrictions are on the horizon, yet close to half of all drinking water in Wairarapa is lost before it gets to the tap.
Half of the drinking water supplied to Featherston and almost as much to Greytown is disappearing through the pipes, while Masterton is losing about a third.
While water loss through pipes is steadily rising, so too is the demand for drinking water.
Wellington Water, which managed water infrastructure for South Wairarapa District Council, said Featherston lost 50 per cent of its drinking water through leaky pipes between July 1, 2021, and June 30, 2022.
It said Greytown lost 46 per cent, and Martinborough lost 28 per cent of its drinking water through pipe leaks in the same period.
It said if left unchecked, councils would likely need to increase the level and length of water restrictions in the summer.
Wellington Water said it was important to fix leaks on both private properties and council-owned infrastructure.
It estimated that Wellington’s metropolitan area lost 35 per cent of water through leaky pipes, but South Wairarapa lost even more, with an average loss of 43 per cent.
“This is an increase of about 7 per cent compared to the same period the previous year.”
Masterton District Council utility services manager, James Li, said the town was now losing about 32 per cent of its drinking water through leaking pipes.
He said the loss had decreased, with 34 per cent lost last year, and 37 per cent lost in 2020.
Carterton District Council [CDC] did not provide specific water loss statistics.
CDC said in a Facebook post that its water use was at dangerously high levels all day on Monday.
It said the use was so high that in the early hours of Tuesday morning, one of its tanks hit the low-level alarm.
The Carterton District Council told the Times-Age that it had consent requirements on the Kaipaitangata stream and bores, which meant it was obliged to implement conservation measures.
It asked residents to have shorter showers, only put full loads of washing on, collect grey water for gardens, and not run appliances during peak water usage times.
Wellington Water said that a low number of large leaks, or a high number of small leaks, could have a significant impact on the entire South Wairarapa network.
“For example, two or three leaks of about one litre per second can easily be 10 to 15 per cent or more of an area’s total water supply.
“This means that it’s really important that leaks are identified quickly and fixed both on the public network, and on private property.”
Wellington Water said since December 2021, it had responded to 274 leaks reported across South Wairarapa and repaired 270 of them.
Li said City Care had attended to 272 leaks in Masterton between July 1, 2021, and June 30, 2022.
CDC did not provide the number of leaks it had attended to in the previous year.
Wellington Water said South Wairarapa was on a permanent water restriction for garden watering, with odd and even houses alternating turns with the hose each day.
It said the rule was because of an ongoing need to conserve water for climate change and water supply resilience.
However, it said South Wairarapa sprinklers had been banned between January and March, during periods of low rainfall when river levels dropped.
Li said water restrictions in Masterton depended on flow levels in the Waingawa River, the source of Masterton’s drinking water.
“When the river’s flow rate falls below 2000 litres per second, sprinkler use restrictions are introduced.”
He said when water levels dropped even further, restrictions could be moved to using handheld hoses only or, in extreme cases, a total water ban.
In 2020, all three Wairarapa district councils enforced a total ban on outside watering for the first time in a decade.

Grace Prior
Grace Prior
Grace Prior is a senior reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with a keen interest in environmental issues. Grace is the paper’s health reporter and regularly covers the rural sector, weather, Greater Wellington Regional Council, and coastal stories.

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