Many failings in water supply standards are technicalities: ORC

While most Otago drinking water suppliers are working hard to improve quality, the lack of water safety plans by some is ''concerning'', the Southern District Health Board says.

The recently released report covering 2017-18 shows that of 55 water supplies in the region, 48 - or 87.3% - did not reach Drinking-water Standards for New Zealand, compared with 33% nationally.

Twenty-two, or 40%, did not reach drinking water standards under the Health Act, compared with 33.3% nationally.

Various councils around the region said many of the failures were technical in nature and the water was safe to drink.

Southern District Health Board communicable diseases acting team leader Kate Marshall said while at face value the statistics in the report were concerning, the cause for non-compliance varied and presented different risks to health.

''In general, the suppliers in the Otago region are working hard to improve water quality for their community.''

However, there were a few suppliers in Otago that did not have water safety plans or had not taken action to protect the public after E. coli was discovered.

''These are the supplies that Public Health South are most concerned about in terms of public health risk and are working with to improve compliance.''

A report from Otago Regional Council staff this week said ''overall, the provision of safe and reliable drinking water across Otago is well-managed through the registered networks''.

Council policy and planning acting manager Anita Dawe said the reasons for non-compliance were frequently technical, such as not sampling frequently enough or not having the correct monitoring in place.

''It is important to understand that non-compliance with the Health Act and/or Drinking Water Standards is not the same as an unsafe drinking water supply.''

The council was aware of its requirements to consider drinking water sources in its consenting function and in setting regional plan rules, she said.

jono.edwards@odt.co.nz

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