Pressure on Lake Hāwea water supply

The township of Lake Hāwea faces significant water demand issues if action is not taken. PHOTO:...
The township of Lake Hāwea faces significant water demand issues if action is not taken. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
Lake Hāwea township could run out of drinkable water within the next two years if there is no intervention, according to documents obtained by the Otago Daily Times.

Population growth is the driver behind water demand challenges across the Queenstown-Lakes district.

The district’s resident population is projected to double between 2021 and 2051, increasing from an average of 41,500 residents to just under 82,700 residents.

Lake Hāwea is not immune to the pressure growth brings.

The lakeside town is on an upward growth projection - in 2018 its population was 1200, up from just over 500 in 2006.

The town’s boundary is extending as developers open up new subdivisions.

Without new water metering, the demand for potable water will exceed supply within 24 months, unless better demand intervention occurs, Queenstown Lakes District Council tender documents state.

The council wants to install 900 smart meters in the town to monitor water consumption.

The meters would allow the council to "accurately measure water consumption in near real time, using smart meter technology to enable volumetric charging for all water consumers".

The new meters and their installation would be funded through the Government’s Three Waters Infrastructure Acceleration Fund.

While the fund is predominantly for wastewater upgrades, the balance would be directed towards a water demand management initiative for the Hāwea township.

The council is also considering making the installation of smart meters a requirement for new subdivisions in the region.

Providing consumers with water consumption insight was a "quick and efficient method of reduction" and would allow residents to monitor their usage, the documents state.

The technology would give the council the ability to introduce water usage charges in future.

Council spokesman Sam White said Lake Hāwea had one of the highest per capita demands for water in the district.

"By working with the community to reduce this, especially during peak times, we can better utilise our existing infrastructure and defer additional investment in more expensive and carbon-intensive upgrades," he said.

"The smart water meter trial will provide useful data to help in this regard and we’ll keep the local community updated as we refine the details of the trial following the tender process."

Smart meters are not a new concept for the council.

It first trialled them in 2021 with 20 households in Glenorchy.

That trial expanded in April last year to 270 sites in Luggate followed by a further 160 sites in Glenorchy in July.

There were no plans to introduce water charges at this stage and "any such move would only occur after detailed public consultation", Mr White said.