Precious water wasted

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Signs encouraging Whakatane residents to save water have angered a resident who has been complaining about leaking pipes and water meters for years.

Whakatane District Council recently installed signs with the slogan “every drop counts” around Whakatane – some afterwards moving them to Matata – but Maureen Morgan says the council is responsible for the loss of large amounts of water itself.

“I saw those water-saving signs and I thought ‘what arrogance’,” she said.

“I have been complaining about their water wastage for years with no result and here they are wasting this precious commodity. The thought of wasting all that water is abhorrent to me, water is precious and will only become more so as we face climate change. One council staff member told me they are called out to 10 leaks every day which is ridiculous.”

Mrs Morgan said the high-water pressure in Whakatane was responsible for bursting pipes and leaky water meters, which the council has failed to remedy, despite her first complaining about it in 2016.

In the course of one year, she has experienced two leaks from her own water meter and a burst pipe, costing her $4000 to repair.

“I asked my plumber what is going on, and he said the water pressure is too high and the fittings were inferior; there is no guarantee it won’t happen again due to the water pressure,” said Mrs Morgan.

“A lot of people wouldn’t have been able to afford to replace that. Our pipes are old and fragile, and the water pressure isn’t helping.”

Mrs Morgan first wrote to the council in February 2016 and complained about the pressure after witnessing leaking water meters daily while walking her dog around her neighbourhood.

A response at the time from the council’s former three waters manager, Santha Agus, acknowledged the water pressure was high but said the council couldn’t reduce the pressure until commercial premises in Whakatane had modified their sprinkler systems to run with a lower pressure.

In his response, Mr Agus said the council would be working with business owners to have all their systems adjusted within a year and would also be upgrading Whakatane’s water pipes over a 10-year period.

However, the council’s current three waters manager Tomasz Krawczyk said the location of the Whakatane and Ohope water supply caused the high pressure in some areas of Whakatane.

The reservoirs are located 80 metres above Valley Road, to be able to feed water to most residential areas and to boost the supply to higher locations in Mokorua and to Ohope.

“This elevation does increase water pressure in some locations,” said Mr Krawczyk.

“We are continuing to work to reduce pressure by installing pressure valves on main pipelines. In order for this to be successfully implemented, further discussions need to be held with some commercial building owners who will need to modify their fire protection sprinkler systems to be able to work with a lowered water pressure. The council does not want to compromise public safety through reducing the pressure until the appropriate agreements are reached and modifications are completed.”

Mr Krawczyk said the council responded to eight callouts per day on average, which it didn’t consider to be excessive.

“These callouts are for a variety of reasons but usually relate to leaks that develop in the connections to water meters, not the water meter itself,” said Mr Krawczyk.

“For the Whakatane and Ohope community with approximately 8600 connections, this figure is not considered to be excessive. However, it is likely that this figure will reduce further once the water pressure can be lowered.

“In terms of replacing ‘old’ infrastructure, the council has a continuous programme of infrastructure replacement, which is being delivered in accordance with the long-term plan and Asset Management Plan. These plans reflect the age of our infrastructure and condition assessments are made before any work is undertaken.”