Drinking water unsafe for many Kiwis

20:05, Oct 26 2010
WATER QUALITY: Around twenty per cent of Kiwis were supplied with water that either failed to meet bacteriological standards or had not been classified because sources were unregistered.
WATER QUALITY: Around twenty per cent of Kiwis were supplied with water that either failed to meet bacteriological standards or had not been classified because sources were unregistered.

One in five New Zealanders has unsafe or unregistered drinking water, a Ministry of Health survey shows.

The July 2008-June 2009 review of drinking water quality shows water supplies are deteriorating.

About 849,000 people, or 20 per cent of Kiwis, were supplied with water that either failed to meet bacteriological standards or had not been classified because sources were unregistered.

That was a rise from 712,000 New Zealanders in the corresponding 2007-08 period.

Unacceptable levels of E. coli were in water supplied to 93,000 people, down from 118,000 the previous year.

However, 247,000 people received water that did not comply bacteriologically with standards because sampling was too infrequent to show compliance.

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That was up from 194,000 people in the 2007-08 period.

Of the 597 school and early-childhood centre supplies, only 118, or 20 per cent, met the standards for safe drinking water.

The report said many schools had installed ultraviolet (UV) treatment to operate with filtration devices.

While most of the UV-treatment devices were adequate to kill bacteria, "a greater dose of UV is required to kill some viruses and protozoan parasites".

Five of 12 hospitals and health services failed to meet the standards.

The review also said there were 33 outbreaks of water-borne illnesses, more than double the previous period, and that E. coli monitoring was stopped for 125 water supplies, mainly for such places as marae and camping grounds. The Hurunui, Selwyn and Waitaki districts needed to review and improve correction processes after illnesses, the report said.

"It is acknowledged that some of these supplies are subject to permanent boil-water notices. However, this is not considered to be an appropriate long-term solution," it said.

Christchurch Central MP Brendon Burns, Labour's water spokesman, said the report, which was released in June, had been "buried".

The Press