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Water conservation now critical

Restricted water supplies could become mandatory in Christchurch by mid-century if population growth is realised and water consumption continues at the current rate.

Therefore, the Christchurch City Council has developed a Draft Water Supply Strategy aimed at conserving our drinking water, which comes mainly from aquifers beneath the city and is among the highest quality in the world.

“We’re very lucky – our drinking water generally needs no treatment and pumping costs are low, making it much better quality and more affordable than many other cities,” Council Senior Policy Analyst Diane Shelander says.

“But we’re using it for everything, from drinking water to washing cars and watering gardens, and it’s not limitless.

“Even modest savings now would mean the aquifer could provide sufficient water into the 22nd century.”

Ms Shelander, lead author of the draft strategy, says water conservation is critical, as there are few options for alternative supplies and they are likely to be expensive and require treatment.

Christchurch’s premium drinking water is also at risk of contamination from development in the west of the city where aquifers have less natural protection.

In addition, the draft strategy outlines plans for Banks Peninsula’s drinking water supplies. These are generally sourced from streams and consequently vary in both quality and quantity, with annual water restrictions imperative in some communities.

The draft strategy will be available for public submissions from tomorrow (10 December 2008) until 6 March 2009.

“We particularly want to hear public views on how we can protect and sustainably manage our water supply. This may be through water-efficient devices, water re-use, rainwater systems, or other initiatives,” Ms Shelander says.

One water-saving mechanism on which the draft strategy invites discussion is charging for excess use, a practice common in other parts of New Zealand.

Ms Shelander says at present residents are charged for drinking water through their rates, with the amount based on the capital value of their property. Commercial and multi-unit residential properties can pay an additional charge if their use exceeds their allowance.

“The debate around charging for water isn’t about whether or not residents are charged for water, it’s about how we’re charged.”

Public submissions on the draft strategy can be lodged through the Council’s Have Your Say webpage (www.ccc.govt.nz/HaveYourSay) or by emailing water-supply-strategy@ccc.govt.nz.

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