No alternative yet in pipeline

22:46, Jan 19 2014

Invercargill still has no alternative water source despite searching for decades, leaving the city vulnerable to running out of water.

Invercargill City Council chief executive Richard King said the hunt for an alternative water supply had been going on for decades, but the council was not any closer to finding a solution.

The council has consent to take water from the Oreti River, which is then treated at the city council's Branxholme water treatment plant.

If something were to spill into the river, the city would have no water for however long it took to flush the chemicals from the river, Mr King said.

The council had only two days of water supplies in reserves.

The situation left the council in "what is probably called a spot of bother," he said.


"Water is the most critical thing we supply to residents."

If a truck crashed or rolled somewhere near the river, such as Lumsden, and spilled toxic chemicals, the effects could be huge for the water supply, he said.

"It's always a risk. We are very vulnerable to that."

Mr King said the council needed a backup plan - something they had spent years investigating.

"We don't really have any backup plans.

"It would be great to find some great big aquifer nearby."

Environment Southland consents manager Stephen West said several things could affect the drinking water of the town that could compromise the council's supply. These included a virus in the Winton sewerage treatment plant discharge or a chemical leak from the plant.

Even high levels of nitrate could affect the water.

But every source of water came with its problems, he said.

Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt said the city needed to find water somewhere.

It was a serious concern and council needed to continue to consider more options, he said.

The council had tried everything, even hiring someone with a water-detecting forked stick, he said.

"That's how desperate we are."

However, works and services committee chairman Lindsay Thomas did not seem desperate to find more water.

The council needed to consider the cost of sourcing more water, he said.

"I'm not concerned about it at all. I understand water is important but . . . you can't just dig up a new source just like that," Mr Thomas said.

Venture Southland chief executive Paul Casson was confident another source of water could be found, with enough research.

Venture was putting together a funding plan to find $3.55 million for water mapping in the region and he hoped the research would be completed within four years.

Environment Southland emergency manager Neil Cruickshank said situations such as the city being cut off from water were prepared for, but not the specific situation of the water being polluted by toxins or oils.

"There are a whole lot of scenarios that can come up to cause this and, while it's not likely, it can happen."


The Southland Times