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Water loss ‘alarming’

Greytown, the district’s most populated town, has suffered many water leaks in recent times. PHOTO/FILE

69 per cent of water lost through leaks
Improving infrastructure is a priority


As much as 69 per cent of Greytown’s water is lost through infrastructure, a report by Wellington Water has found.

And with South Wairarapa’s creaking and leaking infrastructure failing repeatedly in the first year of its contract, WW says it will need more funding and a bigger crew to work on the water woes.

A series of incidents have preoccupied the agency in the freshman year of its deal with South Wairarapa District Council.

These included mishaps at Martinborough’s wastewater treatment plant, a blunder by forestry workers cutting off the Lake Ferry supply, and boil water notices in Featherston and Pirinoa.

Reports on the district’s water woes are set to be discussed by South Wairarapa District Council tomorrow.

WW said this month that it estimated more than half the district’s water is lost in leaks, and never even reaches a resident’s tap.

In Greytown, water leakage of 39 per cent was reported in a Times-Age article last month, based on annual report figures from June 2019.

Flow meter information for Greytown throughout the entire month of July suggests this has increased to 69 per cent for the month.

This would equate to from nine to 16.6 litres per second lost to the ground.

According to the council agenda for its meeting tomorrow, which admitted the percentage appeared “alarming”, a single leak in a pipe in the network could apparently result in a loss of as much as one to two litres per second, and several small leaks across private properties could have a larger cumulative impact.

The report said the relatively small size of the network meant leakage could be disproportionately high, and this was supported by previous leak detection and repair work that had reduced the leakage significantly.

However, when much of the water conservation dogma received by ratepayers across New Zealand was centred around the end user: short showers and hosepipe bans, the question remained as to whether councils and water-intensive industries were also doing enough to address water conservation and storage on a wider level.

The desire to finally complete the ongoing Featherston wastewater treatment plant consent saga, now closing in on its fourth anniversary, was also a pressing issue for the council and WW.

In a report about the August 18 incident in Martinborough [outflow of sewage from storage ponds], the final section said that a key principle of the transition of water services to Wellington Water agreed with the last council in early 2019: “we will provide the same level of service with no increase in costs”.

However, the costs will in fact be increasing.

“With the change in council, and now having unpicked the true condition of the assets, this principle is no longer valid.

“We now need to review our organisational structure to test if we have the best set up to deliver on council’s direction.”

The report continues that “improving three waters infrastructure is council’s number one priority”.

“The delivery on this change in strategy needs to be a balanced approach to risk reduction across safe drinking water and safe wastewater disposal.

“The timing is right to do this with the opportunity provided by central government water reform funding.

“We need to check we are organised in the best way to reduce risk and enable us to get the networks into a stable and reliable state as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

Mayor Alex Beijen said that investment in safe drinking water and related infrastructure was something the district had to do.

“Public safety is paramount and if we’re advised we have to do something for public safety, it’s not a question of can we afford, it, it’s more: how can we afford it?

“We just can’t compromise in that area.”

The report said an investigation into the most recent Martinborough incident continued, and would be shared with council “once available”.
The council has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with central government, allowing it to access $2.84 million in funding for water projects, to be completed by the end of March 2022.

The council meets tomorrow at Martinborough’s Waihinga Centre to discuss matters further.


  1. Perhaps do like Masterton, fight leaky mains by installing water meters and encouraging subdivisions with no requirement for rainwater collection, instead of addressing the real issue of aging infrastructure.

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