Water meter talks a priority

CATHIE BELL
Last updated 11:23 08/06/2012

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The Marlborough District Council is about to start six months of talks with Picton and Havelock residents about water supply shortages and water meters.

Council assets and services manager Mark Wheeler told councillors yesterday that discussion about water metering for homes would be controversial, but the council needed to talk to residents about it before decisions were made in about a year's time.

Council planning and development engineer Stuart Donaldson said Picton and Havelock had potential water shortages, as did Renwick to a lesser extent.

He said the council's level of service for water supply was to have no water restrictions for a one-in-20-year drought. That was at risk of not being achieved in Picton, Havelock, and Renwick.

Picton had two sources of water – the Barnes Dam and Speeds Road groundwater – which were affected by drought. Water restrictions had been imposed in 1997/98, 2000/01, 2003, and 2005.

Havelock's well was close to the sea and became salty in times of drought. Its dam had shut in the 1990s because of protozoa contamination.

Renwick had low well levels. Water restrictions had been imposed in 1997/98, 2001, and 2007.

There were several options, Mr Donaldson said, but water metering was the most cost-effective. Installing the meters would be cheaper and encourage people to save significant amounts of water, delaying the need for council to spend huge amounts on capital works, such as a new dam or long pipeline. That cost would have to be recovered from ratepayers.

It would also help the council manage water better, improving leak detection.

Council has planned to fund water meter installation in Picton and Havelock in financial year 2013/14 in its long-term plan. Renwick would be later, he said.

The council already had water meters now for customers in Awatere, Riverlands, and the Wairau Valley. Only commercial premises in Picton and Blenheim were on water meters.

Councillors were cautious about the proposals, especially when Mr Wheeler said the last such project the council had done was the Grovetown sewerage system. Grovetown residents still have lingering resentment about how that project was implemented.

Public meetings to discuss the possibility of water metering Picton and Havelock are expected to start next month and more information for residents would be available then, Mr Donaldson said.

Marlborough mayor Alistair Sowman asked if the introduction of water meters in Picton and Havelock meant they would be introduced in Blenheim as well. Mr Wheeler said that Blenheim was for the future, but there was not the same issue with the supply of water to Blenheim.

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- The Marlborough Express

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