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Monday
Sep282015

Water Warning

It has been a major concern for some time that the condition of underground water infrastructure on the Peninsula constitutes a potential heavy burden on future rates. 

This is no joke because Thames in particular has some of the oldest pipe-work in the country, and this led to a very responsible Council decision to make provision for a comprehensive audit in the LTP. This is a major undertaking involving the use of outside expertise and sophisticated equipment that is able to record the condition of every main - and in particular the old clay or iron pipes that have been down for over 100 years – generally considered to be the maximum economic life of this pipe-work. There has been little indication to date as to how this audit is progressing, but it will take some years to complete, and upgrading and maintenance must continue apace.

Why I draw attention to this work relates to a story that has appeared in today's Washington Post that outlines the dilemma being faced in Des Moines, Iowa, a city of 600,000 right in the middle of one of the most intensive agricultural areas in the US.  Its pipe-work appears to be equally as old as ours, but is starting to come apart at the seams.

It appears to be a similar situation in a great number of US cities, but what is of greater interest is that Des Moines has for a very long time needed to reduce dangerous nitrate levels, and presumably phosphates from its water supply because of the intensive agricultural nature of its surroundings. This has required substantial capital investment, and that equipment also needs replacing

One would have to ask just how long it will be before the same happens here - particularly in areas of the Waikato, Manawatu, Taranaki and Canterbury. Already nitrate levels have increased dramatically in the Christchurch aquifers from which that city has traditionally sourced its water.

It is an object lesson on what could happen here if we are not extremely careful with the oversight, and prevention of irresponsible use of nitrate fertilisers, and intensification (cow pee!) in dairying areas. Once the levels begin to increase, it takes over ten years to correct the situation because of the penetration of the nitrates into the subsoil, and subsequent leaching into waterways. At that point it is already to too late, and expensive treatment becomes inevitable. That appears to be the situation now facing the Christchurch, and no doubt many other urban authorities.  

The story provides an object lesson on two scores, both in regard to infrastructure, and intensification leading to loss of water quality. 

 

 

 

 

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Reader Comments (1)

In this country God is a cow! The holy cow is allowed to despoil in a very few years what the former God created over millions. The Mackenzie Country has been ravaged by the cows, favourite swimming holes covered with Algae. Every time I receive my demand from the Waikato Regional Council I see the significant contribution I make to the restoration of lake Taupo which from memory will take some 100 years to repair. We do ignore water quality at our peril and I suspect that many of the Thames water supply is distributed in asbestos pipes ....all too common throughout NZ. Just as well it is being replaced with plastic which I hope is PCB free, or is there something else that is deadly but we haven't discovered it yet ?

December 31, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Feran

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