New regulations and requirements for private drinking water sources – Water Services Bill 2020

21 Apr 21

New legislation called the Water Services Bill 2020 (the Bill) is currently being considered by the Health select committee. The primary purpose of the Bill is to ensure a safe supply of drinking water. These reforms are a direct response to the Havelock North water contamination event which affected a large number of people in 2016.

The Bill creates a new regime for managing and monitoring private and public drinking water supplies. Once enacted, the new requirements will affect many residences and businesses in the rural sector who have their own private drinking water supply.

The reform package also creates a new water services regulator called Taumata Arowai, and then sets out the methods by which Taumata Arowai must administer and monitor all drinking water supplies in NZ.

New requirements apply to small to medium sized private supplies

The Bill imposes a range of duties and obligations on ‘drinking water suppliers’. Drinking water suppliers include:

  • Councils;
  • All private persons or entities that supply drinking water to two or more dwellings;
  • All private persons or entities that supply drinking water to a commercial or other non-residential premises.

Some examples of the types of private drinking water supplies that will come under the administration of Taumata Arowai (as currently provided in the Bill) are:

  • A bore or other drinking water supply to a group of residences within one rural property
  • A bore or other water source supplying a community hall or commercial business
  • A café or other small business supplied by a rainwater tank
  • A bore or other drinking water supply to a multi-dwelling building (such as multiple separate apartments contained in a single building).

Some of these drinking water supplies might be managed by a services company e.g., in a small rural subdivision; but many will be small drinking water supplies managed by private persons or small business owners. All of these drinking water suppliers will, in time, become subject to new monitoring and reporting requirements that are intended to ensure their drinking water supply is safe.

Registration, monitoring and reporting requirements

The initial focus of the new body – Taumata Arowai – will be on ensuring Council drinking water supplies are meeting the expected drinking water standard, and are being administered in accordance with a range of requirements set out in the Bill for large drinking water suppliers. The expectations for planning, monitoring and reporting by small drinking water suppliers, such as those typically found in rural communities, will be less onerous than what would be expected of a Council supplying a large community.

In time, a range of additional planning, monitoring and reporting requirements will be expected to also be met by all smaller ‘drinking water suppliers’. At present the requirements imposed by the Bill on smaller drinking water suppliers include duties to:

  • Provide safe, aesthetically acceptable drinking water that meets drinking water standards
  • Register their drinking water supply with Taumata Arowai, and renew this registration annually
  • Prepare various plans and strategies, that may include:

–    A drinking water safety plan

–    A source water risk management plan

–    A multi-barrier drinking water safety plan.

  • Ensure there is a sufficient quantity of drinking water to support the ordinary needs of consumers
  • Protect against risk of backflow, and meet other obligations if the supply is reticulated.
  • Install, maintain and conduct ongoing testing of any end-point treatment devices.

Taumata Arowai is also provided with powers to take enforcement steps to ensure all drinking water suppliers are complying with drinking water standards, and meeting all of the above requirements.

Planning for the new requirements –potentially 3-5 years

As we mentioned above, the Bill includes mechanisms for the regulation of drinking water to be proportional to the scale, complexity, and risk profile of the drinking water supply. These new requirements will need to begin to be factored in by rural landowners and businesses over the next 3-5 years.

Once the Bill is passed, there are likely to be additional administrative requirements for businesses managing a drinking water supply to two or more dwellings or a commercial premises, and additional costs for any extra infrastructure.

The Bill is currently with the Health Select Committee for review, which is tasked with considering a large number of submissions on these reforms. The select committee report is currently due on 8 June 2021 and the committee may (or may not) recommend changes to the Bill, after which the Bill may be referred back to Parliament for a further reading. We will provide a further update on any substantial changes at that time.


Want to know more?

If you have any questions about New regulations and requirements for private drinking water sources, please contact our specialist rural and agribusiness team.


PDF version: New regulations and requirements for private drinking water supplies

This article was included in Edition 4 of our Rural and agribusiness newsletter – Rural Autumn 2021 which you can read here