Annual Report on Drinking-Water Quality 2013-14

Published online: 
27 January 2015

Summary

The Annual Report on Drinking-Water Quality 2013/14 describes the drinking-water quality for all registered drinking-water supplies that served populations of more than 100 people, and progress towards meeting the requirements of the Health Act 1956, from 01 July 2013 to 30 June 2014.

The report comprises the level of compliance for each category of water supplier (large, medium, minor, and small) with the Health Act 1956, and the Drinking-Water Standards for New Zealand.

For the water supplies covered in the report:

97.2 percent of people (3,723,000 people) received drinking-water that achieved bacterial Standards which is the most important criteria.

  • 80.8 percent of people (3,093,000 people) received drinking-water which achieved the protozoal Standards.
  • 97.4 percent of people (3,728,000 people) received drinking-water which achieved the chemical Standards.
  • 90.6 percent of people (3,469,000 people) received drinking-water from supplies that had a water safety plan being implemented, compared with 45.1 percent in the previous period.

The Standards, based on the World Health Organization guidelines for drinking-water quality, give highest priority to health risks arising from microbial contaminants because they can lead to rapid and major outbreaks of illness. The national target for meeting the bacterial and chemical Standards, set in 1995, is 95% compliance for drinking-water supplies serving over 500 people.


Questions about the Report

1. Is my drinking-water safe?

During 2013/14, over 3.0 million New Zealanders on water supplies serving over 100 people were provided with drinking-water that met all the bacterial, protozoal and chemical requirements of the Drinking-water Standards for New Zealand (the Standards) and, therefore, was demonstrably safe.

In 1995, the Ministry of Health set a target of 95 percent compliance with bacterial and chemical Standards by drinking-water supplies serving over 500 people. During 2013/14, bacterial compliance was achieved for 97.2 percent of the population and chemical compliance for 97.4 percent of the population on registered networked community drinking-water supplies serving over 100 people. Achievement against the protozoal Standards remains around 80 percent.

Remedial actions need to be taken by suppliers in the event that monitoring reveals contamination of the water and that the Standards are breached. Prompt action is required when the contaminants are microbial, as pathogens can rapidly cause illness. Almost all water suppliers undertook immediate remedial action in response to transgressions of the Standards. Water supplies that did not comply due to inadequate monitoring (a technical non-compliance) were not necessarily unsafe, but monitoring is important to be sure water is safe. Likewise, for those supplies that have not met protozoal compliance because adequate barriers are not yet in place to ensure the drinking-water is free of protozoa, the risk is also unknown.

Water safety plans are developed and implemented by drinking-water suppliers to identify what risks may exist for a water supply and how to manage these risks – or what action to take if something does go wrong. During the 2013/14 reporting period, 3.6 million people (equivalent to 94.6 percent of the population covered by the Report) received water from supplies that had an approved water safety plan. A drinking-water supplier is deemed to be taking all practicable steps to comply with the Standards if the supplier is implementing the provisions relating to the Standards in their approved water safety plan.

2. What is the Annual Report on Drinking-Water Quality 2013/14?

The report describes drinking-water quality, and progress towards meeting the requirements of the Health Act 1956 and the Drinking-Water Standards for New Zealand, for all registered networked community drinking-water supplies that served populations of more than 100 people from July 2013 to June 2014 (covering approximately 3.8 million people).

3. Why is the Annual Report on Drinking-Water Quality being published?

The Annual Report on Drinking-Water Quality 2013/14 is the latest in a series of annual reports that were first published in 1994. Publishing the report each year fulfils a statutory requirement of the Ministry of Health.

4. The report includes information on measures other than the Standards. Why has this information been included?

The Health Act 1956 (as amended in 2007) describes a number of duties for water suppliers, including taking all practicable steps to comply with the Standards. The Act requires information on water suppliers’ compliance with their duties to be included in the report.

5. What steps are being taken to raise overall compliance with the Standards?

Failure to meet microbiological Standards leads to the potential for outbreaks of disease. The following initiatives are being implemented to ensure New Zealand’s drinking-water remains safe:

  • drinking-water subsidies to assist small, disadvantaged communities to have access to safe drinking-water. The final round of the subsidy closes on 28 February 2015 - further information is available in the following publication: Applying for a Drinking-water Subsidy: Guidelines for applicants and district health board public health units 
  • external surveillance of drinking-water supplies by drinking-water assessors and health protection officers from local DHB public health units
  • publication of a Register of Community Drinking-Water Suppliers
  • publication of a Register of Ministry of Health Recognised Laboratories for drinking-water compliance tests
  • publication of a Register of Water Carriers
  • maintenance of a national drinking-water quality information database
  • publication of Guidelines for Drinking-Water Quality Management in New Zealand
  • publication of Drinking-water Standards for New Zealand 2005 (Revised 2008)
  • water suppliers are progressively required to prepare water safety plans and to take “all practicable steps” to comply with the Standards.

6. How does compliance with the Standards compare with last year?

During the reporting period over 3.0 million New Zealanders on reticulated supplies serving over 100 people were provided with drinking-water that met all the bacterial, protozoal and chemical Standards. Overall, in terms of population served, this was an increase of 2.0 percentage points from 2012/13. Achievement of the bacterial Standards was at 97.2 percent (up from 96.7 percent) and achievement of the chemical Standards was at 97.4 percent (up from 95.3 percent) and so continue to exceed the Ministry of Health’s target of 95 percent. Around 80 percent met the protozoal standards.

7. How many people received water that did not achieve the Standards due to poor monitoring?

Around 1.3 percent (48,000 people) of the population was served by supplies in which Escherichia coli was inadequately monitored (this is a bacteria that provides an indication of contamination of the water supply). Monitoring is important for determining whether supplies meet appropriate Standards.

Publishing information

  • Date of publication:
    27 January 2015
  • ISSN:
    1179-2604 (Online)
  • HP number:
    6115
  • Citation:
    Ministry of Health. 2015. Annual Report on Drinking-Water Quality 2013-14. Wellington: Ministry of Health.
  • Ordering information:
    Only soft copy available to download
  • Copyright status:
    Owned by the Ministry of Health and licensed for reuse under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence.
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