Water main and connection renewals have been programmed over the next ten years at a total cost of $19.9 million. This sum includes replacement of a trunk main into town that will be staged over the first five years of the plan at a total cost of $7.6 million. Depreciation reserves will only cover some of this work, so some loan funding is also required. Loan servicing and repayment will be funded by urban ratepayers. This work is consistent with our asset management plan and is based on cost-effective management of the asset now and in the future.
Urban Water Consents
Until now, our summer urban water restrictions have enabled us to stay within our resource consent limits for taking water from the Waingawa River. We expect that future resource consents will reduce the amount of water that we can take from the river during times of low flow. To meet future consents, we expect we will need to install water meters on all users – scheduled for 2019-20, costed at $3.4 million and construct larger untreated water storage dams – scheduled for 2026-27, costed at $7.2 million. It is expected that these costs will be funded by loan with costs spread across the users over the period of the loan.
Water meters have been shown to be the most effective way of reducing water use, reducing demand by around 30%. Water meters would also enable us to measure more accurately the difference between the amount of water leaving the treatment plant and the amount recorded by meters, that can assist us to detect and fix leaks in the system. Introducing water meters may mean we can avoid placing further restrictions on the use of water on gardens. Alternatively, instead of water meters, we could impose more stringent water restrictions in the summer.
Until the Natural Resources Plan is fully implemented, the water treatment plant upgrade timetable and scope creates significant uncertainty for us. The Natural Resources Plan may be more accommodating of urban residential and commercial needs for water during periods of low flow, and we may be able to gain dispensation to continue to meet commercial needs. However, if not, the principal alternative is to restrict supply to commercial users at times of low flow in the rivers. This contradicts our Economic Development Strategy that plans to encourage business.
Rural Drinking Water Supplies
The Ministry of Health has introduced higher standards for rural drinking water suppliers. We expect this will require improvements to infrastructure and treatment systems, and their ongoing maintenance, so that all rural systems comply with potable (drinking) water standards. A provision of $374,000 has been made to assist rural schemes in meeting these standards. It is expected that these upgrades will be funded by loan and costs spread across the users over the period of the loan.
The alternative to meeting drinking water standards is to close the rural water supply schemes, especially those that will cost more than users are willing to invest to meet the required standards. Closure would, however, impose higher costs on individual users to source water for personal and farm use, and may have a higher environmental impact than a group scheme.