Big bill for good water

Water charge up to $800

JO MCKENZIE-MCLEAN
Last updated 10:44 18/12/2013
Southland Times photo
JO McKENZIE-McLEAN/Fairfax NZ
Sara Nolan hates having to give her five-month-old Theo Frew ''disgusting'' Alexandra water which is not only of an unacceptable drinking water standard but makes her baby's skin dry.

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A pot of cooled boiled water sits on the stove ready to be transferred into 5-month-old Theo Frew's bottle.

The pot is scaled thick with white lime scum and bits of sediment float in the water.

Mother-of-two Sara Nolan hates making up bottles for Theo with the Alexandra water, but like other townspeople what choice does she have?

"It is really hard to tip into bottles to feed to your babies. It looks pretty damn disgusting."

For 35 years Alexandra's domestic water has been sourced from six bores on the bank of the Clutha River. It does not meet current water safety standards - the supply has an E grading - the worst grade on the Public Health scale.

There are also issues with lime scaling, hardness and "perceived risks" from a nearby closed landfill and mine.

After six years of investigating options to upgrade the supply ratepayers have a choice to make: How much clean water is worth to them?

Last week, the Central Otago District Council development engineer Peter Morton told the council after exhaustive technical work there were two sets of options to consider and put out for public consultation:

■ The minimum lower cost option of disinfection treatment to bring the existing site up to drinking water standards at an estimated cost of $8.5 million, with an operating and maintenance cost over 20 years of $14.59m.

This option does nothing to address the scaling or hardness of water, or risks from the nearby closed landfills and old coal workings.

■ Establish a new Clutha River or Lake Dunstan water source sized to service Alexandra alone at an estimated cost of $11.5m to $14.5m,

with an operating and maintenance cost over 20 years of $16m to $21m respectively.

This option would meet drinking water standards, address the closed landfill and mine workings risks and would provide softer water with reduced scaling similar to Clyde.

Ratepayers currently pay an annual water charge of $249. To fund the upgrade, that would increase to about $550 for the minimum cost option or $650-$800 for the new source option.

Mr Morton said on the surface the Lake Dunstan option appeared to be the most economic, however, its feasibility had not been "technically proven".

Trial bores would need to be installed to investigate the feasibility of supplying Alexandra from the Lake Dunstan shoreline gravels near the Clyde water intake, costing about $110,000, he said.

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The council accepted his recommendation to carry out testing.

"By June 2014 will know whether Lake Dunstan is feasible supply or whether it will be discarded and you are just left with the Clyde supply."

The consultation process would involve forming a working group, involve feedback from all Central Otago residents, provide detailed information to Alexandra water consumers and involve information posted on websites, newsletters, social media, news media, letter drops and public meetings.

Ms Nolan said though many families, hers included, would struggle paying more rates, she supported the higher-cost option.

"For us, to have such a beautiful clear river running through the town and having the most disgusting water in all of New Zealand is ridiculous. We might as well be living in a third world country, that's how bad it seems. For me, it comes back to having a better quality of water for our children. Something needs to be done."

 

- The Mirror

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