Most Wakatipu residents are drinking water that isn’t officially certified as safe for human consumption.
That’s the verdict in a recent national review by the Ministry of Health.
According to the MoH, water supplied to most of the Wakatipu and Wanaka by Queenstown Lakes District Council is non-compliant with national standards – because it’s either “inadequately sampled” or not sampled often enough.
About one-in-six Kiwis drink at-risk water but the proportion here is far higher, the MoH claims – about two out of every three residents.
The review assesses water-testing systems rather than the natural nectar itself.
Main water-borne threats are the dreaded E.coli and cryptosporidium, together with nasties like lead and nickel.
In Queenstown’s main urban area, the water supply is graded “chemical” compliant for lead and nickel but not “protozoal” compliant – read E coli and crypto.
QLDC gets a hurry-up: “The optimal means of achieving protozoal compliance should be determined and implemented,” says the MoH. If Queenstown’s supply was monitored more often, it would probably get the big tick.
Better news for Arrowtown, Arthurs Point, Glenorchy, Lake Hayes and Kelvin Heights – QLDC water passes with flying colours.
Private non-QLDC water schemes also come under the microscope – Dalefield and Jack’s Point pass but Cardrona is deemed “not monitored”.
QLDC water boss Gerry Essenberg is unfazed.
“We’re exactly where we expect to be and probably where we want to be,” he says.
“The monitoring and measuring [the MoH] actually wants us to do [are] not mandatory – these are things they’d like to see happen.”
National water standards were set by the former Labour Government but National wants to “park them” because many councils can’t afford upgrades, he adds.
“The drinking water standards are Rolls Royce,” Essenberg says, “and we’d probably be a 2007 Toyota Corolla.”
E.coli and cryptosporidium checks are regularly done but we flunk the MoH test because the main Queenstown and Wanaka intakes don’t have filters to keep those bugs at bay between checks.
And that’s all down to money – about $10 million, Essenberg guesses.
In the next year or so, QLDC will release its “public health risk management plan … where we will make the call on whether we want filters or not”, he adds.
“It would cost us a lot of money if we went down the filtration track.”