Upcoming water wars? Get tanked.

Topics covered in this article: RMA & Local Government

Look at the media and count how many times in the last few years there has been a heading drawing attention to some new outrage on water!  

Wellington about to completely run out of water with only a day’s notice; Council selling Ashburton water to an offshore company; Ashburton having to use stock water for its residents; Ruataniwha dam controversy; Lake Rotorua nitrogen reductions required; Waikato region nutrients to water reduction; irrigation on the Canterbury plains; Dame Sian’s cows in the water; Wellington says every property should have a 200 ltr storage capacity on each property for every two people and has teamed up with the supplier to make them available at cost[1]… it goes on.  Mains water has suffered with disruption from natural hazard events like earthquakes too, not to mention contamination of the supply aquifer such as in Havelock North.  And that’s just in NZ. 

Many years ago the then Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, stood on a stage in Queenstown and raised the now-ubiquitous plastic water bottle in the air, and told us that this is where the war will be.  Back then it seemed to be an over-reaction.  Now climate change or just ornery weather patterns are dumping and or withholding vast quantities of water at will.  If it isn’t a drought it’s a flood, and either way, potable water sources are at risk.

We need to think about water, and to build water sustainability into our cities and lives more than we do.  Where is the New Zealand Rainwater Harvesting Association? (Yes, they have one in Oz, where drought and bush living makes it a prerequisite - there, it is a A$500 million industry[2]). Diverted rainfall can be used for clothes washing, toilet flushing and gardening. It can slow the flow in times of peak rainfall, and lessen the demand in times of low rainfall. It’s mandated for new development in some parts of South East Queensland as part of their development code (and has been since 2007).  

The average Tauranga home uses 493 ltrs of water per day[3] and roughly 20-24% of that goes in the washing machine, and another 20% in flushing the loo.  Outdoor use fluctuates between 10-22% depending on the season[4].  That’s a lot of water that can be left clean and treated in the mains system for tap use if you diverted rainwater to these sorts of non-potable uses. 


Getting tanked: Ask your Council what their requirements are about siting and using rain tanks. 

In Tauranga the position is set out in this pdf: http://econtent.tauranga.govt.nz/data/water/files/waterline_rainwater.pdf

If you also want to drink your tank water then understand how to protect your health: http://www.westernbay.govt.nz/our-services/building-consents/Building-information/Documents/Safe%20Drinking%20Water.pdf


[1] Wellington Region Emergency Management Centre

[2] Source http://www.rainwaterharvesting.org.au/ (accessed 23 January 2017)

[4] As above. “Average household water use in winter/summer.