Small Drinking Water Suppliers – things just got a bit easier!

Drinking water suppliers have a duty to ensure the drinking water they provide is safe, no matter the population size supplied. If you own or operate a water supply that is being used as drinking water by people outside of your own home (e.g., a farm property with multiple dwellings supplied by a single source), you are a drinking water supplier and will have responsibilities to meet the Drinking Water Quality Assurance Rules. These create new responsibilities for huge numbers of small suppliers who have previously not had any formal rules to follow.

The new regulations have caused a great deal of concern for many people who are, understandably, worried about responsibilities and costs. Whilst there are definitely new responsibilities, complying with the new regulations is actually going to be simpler than many people may realise. The new drinking water regulator, Taumata Arowai, has worked with many water users and suppliers, as well as with industry bodies such as Irrigation New Zealand, to come up with solutions for small suppliers that are practical to implement.

Your options

There are four main options for most small suppliers in terms of the route they take to comply with the rules.

The first and simplest solution is for a small supplier to register as a “very small supplier” under the drinking water quality assurance rules. Most suppliers will fall into this category which is for suppliers who provide water for less than 25 people (or <50 people for up to 60 days/year). In this category the primary requirement is that water is tested for microbes every 6 months. No treatment is required and there are no reporting requirements. However, the supplier does need to assess any risks to the supply and prepare a water safety plan.

Ready-made options

There are also three “ready-made” options designed to provide straightforward solutions for some small water suppliers, called ‘Acceptable Solutions’. Provided the identified criteria can be met, suppliers can opt to follow these pathways for any supplies serving less than 500 people. Sampling requirements are more rigorous than for the very small suppliers, often requiring sampling prior to establishing the water source as a supply, 3 monthly water sampling for microbes plus several additional parameters, and annual sampling for a range of parameters. This is to ensure both water safety and suitability for filtration and water treatment, which are necessary for all acceptable solution options. However, there is no requirement for a water safety plan to be developed. Acceptable solutions are available for:

  • Small mixed-use supplier — where most of the water is for agricultural use, and some of the water is for domestic use (e.g., agricultural property with a house, workers cottages, milking shed)

  • Bore/spring water — where the water supply uses bore or spring water as a drinking water source.

  • Roof water - where collected roof water is supplied as a drinking water source.

Whilst your inclination may be to shy away from new responsibilities, there is now no option to do so. But the financial and time impacts may not be what you thought they were going to be. The key is to find out the option that best works for you.

For further advice or information about small drinking water suppliers' responsibilities

Christchurch: +64 3 964 6521
Ashburton: +64 3 307 6680
Hastings: +64 6 873 404
Cromwell: +64 27 457 0415

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