Water Conservation


NPDC has the strategic intent of being a Sustainable Lifestyle Capital

Water Conservation Plan — Our why

Ko au te wai, ko te wai ko au: I am the water and the water is me.

Tangata whenua have long understood the vital link between people and water, and the need to show care when managing this taonga. A close relationship is maintained with te wai in all its forms, both spiritually and physically.

Water conservation is the best thing we can do to protect our water resource.

Water Conservation means using our limited freshwater and existing infrastructure wisely and carefully.

Te Mana o te Wai

Te Mana o Te Wai is the integrated and holistic wellbeing of the water.

NPDC applies to Taranaki Regional Council for consent to draw water from local rivers and streams for human consumption.The consent application is assessed to ensure that best resource management practices and environmental care are achieved.

Water supply challenges have been identified for the district, and in response, NPDC is developing an interconnected framework for ensuring a safe and reliable water supply.

He Puna Wai & Three Waters Hui.

The water sustains us and we have a responsiblity to sustain the water.

New Plymouth's drinking water

NPDC provides on average over 30 million litres per day and even more in summer!

This water is taken from local waterways, treated, and distributed to residents and businesses, as well as to council-run communal facilities and services.

New Plymouth district has an extensive water supply system that has a high cost for the environment, and it is expensive.

The water belongs to the rivers and streams first, and people second.

New Plymouth District water supply system

  1. 1
    Rain falls on the mountain
  2. 2
  3. 3
    Water is taken to the New Plymouth Water Treatment Plant which removes the taste, smell, dirt, algae and bacteria, and adds chlorine.
  4. 4
    Mains pipes take the cleaned water to reservoir tanks.
  5. 5
    Half of a reservoir’s water is for household use. The remainder is kept aside for firefighting and civil defence.
  6. 6
    Clean, safe drinking water arrives at your home.

Despite its importance, many of us take water for granted.

We are using too much water

Average Daily Residential Water Use in New Zealand (litres per day)

Average Daily Residential Water Consumption

Implications of not changing

When we plan for the future, we need to consider:

If we don’t change, we will need a new water source within the next couple of years. This will be expensive and a significant environmental effect.

Our plan

Our specific goal for Te Wai is to have a sustainable and efficient water supply service that caters for growth, reduces negative effects on the environment, supports recreational activities, and is affordable.

We need your support!

Achieving a meaningful long term reduction in water consumption requires community support.

What level of water savings should we aim for?

We have developed options for conserving water and estimated both the cost and the net savings from delaying the need to build additional water infrastructure.

Each of the four options include specific actions to achieve water savings:

The most signnificant initiative among the options is the installation of water meters and a change to volumetric charging for drinking water.

At the moment residents are charged a flat rate for water through rates.

We want to charge only what you use - many households will save money with water meters installed, especially those who use water wisely.

Water Conservation Consultaion Options
Action Status
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  • Action not implemented in this option.
  • Scenario 1
    Scenario 1: Action is implemented in this option.
  • Scenario 2
    Scenario 2: Additional resources (people or funds) are applied in this option compared to Scenario 1.
  • Scenario 3
    Scenario 3: Additional resources (people or funds) are applied in this option compared to Scenario 2.
  • Scenario 4
    Scenario 4: Additional resources (people or funds) are applied in this option compared to Scenario 3.

We need your feedback

Feedback on our 10-year plan now

New Plymouth District Council

84 Liardet Street, New Plymouth
Private Bag 2025, New Plymouth 4340
New Zealand

P 06 759 6060 F 06 759 6072
E enquiries@npdc.govt.nz

For more information, view the entire Water Conservation Consultation Document.

Fresh water is one of our most precious resources. It is the basis for all life on the planet – plants and animals can’t live without it.

It is essential to maintaining healthy, resilient natural environments, such as forests, rivers and lakes. It is also a basic ingredient for a range of industries, from farming to manufacturing and hospitality. NPDC is tasked with collecting, treating, storing and distributing this precious taonga to us all.

The Water Conservation Plan’s primary aims align with organisational goals:

  • Provide a cost-effective service that our community can afford

  • Sustainably use our water and reduce waste

  • Protect natural habitats, recreational activities and the availability of mahinga kai (food sources)

  • Harness the power of the community to achieve water use reductions

  • Deliver resilient services able to cope under drought conditions

  • Work collaboratively with local iwi and hapū, businesses, industry and organisations to achieve water take reductions

Taking this approach brings huge benefits, including:

  • Significantly reducing the effect on the environment.

  • Protecting and enhancing water sources’ cultural and community value.

  • Reducing energy consumption normally needed to treat and pipe high water volumes.

  • Using water resources efficiently in order to postpone local water infrastructure investments.

Te Mana o Te Wai is a fundamental national water concept.

As a country, we have an obligation to protect the health and wellbeing of water, and an important part of this is being respectful about how much water we take for people to use.

The concept Te Mana o Te Wai has been incorporated into New Zealand’s National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2020 to highlight the need for integrated and holistic management that ensures the wellbeing of water.

How this works in practice is left to local communities around the country to decide.

As part of the ongoing process of implementing the Freshwater National Policy Statement, Taranaki Regional Council is working towards:

  • Deciding how best to group waterways for effective management

  • Setting water quality and environmental flow limits

  • Incorporating the National Objectives Framework into their activities to support the health of waterways

He Puna Wai

A sustainable, long term strategy for the three waters system is being explored at a high level through He Puna Wai, which is made up of iwi representatives from Te Atiawa, Taranaki, Ngāti Mutunga, Ngāti Maru and Ngāti Tama, as well as NPDC staff.

Three Waters Hui

At a more technical level, NPDC hosts the Three Waters Hui. This working group consists of local hapū and iwi representatives together with NPDC officers. Ideas around Water Conservation and upcoming water consents are discussed.

The water flowing from Mount Taranaki provides sustenance, connection and identity which will never extinguish.

We draw from four natural water sources in New Plymouth:

  • The Waiwhakaiho River (via Lake Mangamahoe) supplies water to New Plymouth, Bell Block, Lepperton, Waitara, Tikorangi, Onaero and Urenui.

  • The Ngatoro Stream supplies Inglewood

  • The Mangatete Stream supplies Okato.

  • An underground aquifer supplies Ōākura.

Our rivers and streams need enough water in them in order to stay fresh and cool; without adequate minimum flows, aquatic life will suffer.

Unfortunately, people tend to use the most water during summer, when flows in natural watercourses are already at their lowest. For this reason, there is tension between meeting the needs of humans and the needs of the environment. This is why treated drinking water must be consciously consumed.

It costs around $12 million each year to provide clean and healthy water to residents, including operating treatment plants and maintaining pipes and reservoirs.

This is an example for the New Plymouth Water Supply System that takes water from the Waiwhakaiho River (via Lake Mangamahoe) which serves New Plymouth, Bell Block, Waitara, Tikorangi, Ureni and Onaero

In New Plymouth, where we have abundant rainfall, we expect an unending supply of fresh drinking water to be available.

However, in examining a number of important factors, it is clear that careful planning is now required in order to cater for growth, adapt to climate change and other external events, stay within financial constraints, and comply with regulatory requirements.

Residential water usage just consider how much water per person your household uses and does not include industrial or municipal usage or leakage.

New Plymouth residential consumption was based on 2018-2019 data.

When we look at locations around New Zealand, the differences are striking.

People living in cities where water conservation is enthusiastically embraced, including through water metering, tend to use significantly less water than residents of non- or low-metred locations.

When comparing ourselves to other similar size municipalities in New Zealand with best local practices, we can see that our residential water consumption is 60% higher. Also, Aucklanders use just over 150 litres per person per day on average – that’s around half of what New Plymouth residents consume.

The graph clearly shows the effect of, and need for, water conservation best practices: locations to the left place greater emphasis on water conservation activities than those on the right.

The source of the graph is Water NZ and the data is based on 2019 Financial Year figures.

To check all the cities and councils that participated please go to https://www.waternz.org.nz/Category?Action=View&Category_id=1010

Local growth

New Plymouth district has been in a growth phase for the past several years.

The population currently stands at approximately 85,000, and with further growth over the next three decades, it is expected to reach 104,000 by 2050. Industrial and commercial activity should also increase over the same timeframe.

While growth is not a problem in itself, it will naturally increase demand for clean water, thereby exacerbating the issues already raised around environmental impact, the costs incurred to upgrade the network, and issues around consenting.

The environment

Greater emphasis is being placed on environmental sustainability by ordinary citizens, and this is reflected in progressively more stringent regulatory protections for water over time.

People realise we need to leave more water in rivers, streams and lakes so that the natural environment can remain healthy.

Regulatory arena

Under the Resource Management Act, Taranaki Regional Council are charged with ensuring that resources are used efficiently.

However, because the residents of the District are not currently using water efficiently, it is difficult for NPDC to justify a renewal of the existing consent at the current quantity, and equally difficult for Taranaki Regional Council to approve it. The same principle applies to consent applications for any additional future water sources.

Also, we need to consider potential future changes in the regulatory arena where the targets for minimum flow to be left on the waterbodies may be increased. If the district was to meet the government’s or Taranaki Regional Council’s proposed river flows, we would be unable to meet typical summer demand.

Will cost the district tens of millions of dollars to develop.

Taking action now will allow us to fully use the existing infrastructure while also giving us time to find the most sustainable solution.

Left in the environment

The space between the red and the orange lines represents additional water than can be left in the environment to support ecosystems.

The size of this gap (and benefit to the natural world) will depend on how successful New Plymouth’s water conservation efforts are.

Status Quo Demand

The red line represents water demand based on expected growth, if water consumption and leakage rates remain consistent with no effort towards conservation. Demand is predicted to outstrip supply in the late 2030s.

Reduced Demand

The orange line considers the initial fall and slower growth in water demand expected if water conservation actions are put in place to reduce both consumption and leakages. In this scenario, a new water source may not be needed until the mid-2050s, giving us up to 15 extra years to continue using the existing infrastructure and secure the most environmentally sound and fiscally responsible solutions.

Capacity of the water supply system

The blue area (supply) shows the amount of water that can reliably be supplied to the district from the existing water infrastructure.

Residential demand accounts for 55-65% of all water consumed in the district, and is the biggest contributor to higher summer demand. Consumption over the summer months can increase by more than 25%, resulting in an extra ten million litres being required each day on average, with peaks of up to 15 million litres a day. This extra water is mostly used for watering gardens and filling swimming pools, despite being treated to drinking water standard!

Around 500 residential properties (3%) throughout the district are currently metered, meaning the majority of household consumption is being estimated.

To check what has been done so far to reduce residential water consumption, refer to page 17 of the Water Conservation Consultation Document

NPDC has approximately 400 connections for its local facilities and services. Most of these are currently unmetered has resulted in a lack of good data and information about when, where and how much water is being used. Work is underway to change this through a number of initiatives.

To check what has been done so far to reduce municipal water consumption, refer to page 19 of the Water Conservation Consultation Document

Many businesses and industries, including food processing, manufacturing, farming and hospitality rely on water to operate safely.

NPDC has a good understanding of how the large commercial organisations use water because they are metered and pay by volume. Similar to what is seen with universal water metering for residential consumers, metered companies are generally more aware of their water use and tend to want to reduce consumption as it directly affects bottom line costs.

To check what has been done so far to reduce industrial and commercial water consumption, refer to page 20 of the Water Conservation Consultation Document

Water network losses and leakage (leakages) happen in all water supply systems, and are a significant cause of waste. Current estimated leakages across New Plymouth district’s network are around five million litres per day – this is 15% to 20% of total production! Surprisingly, this level of lost water is reasonably common around the world.

To check what has been done so far to reduce losses and leakages, refer to page 21 of the Water Conservation Consultation Document

Through ongoing efforts, residential usage has fallen from 336 to 287 litres per person per day since 2015. Even more impressive is the reduction in network losses by more than half over the past five years from 372 litres per property per day to just 169 litres. Industrial and commercial demand has remained steady over this period.

Ultimately it is the whole community’s behaviour that determines how much water is used. In theory, it would be possible to halve consumption if everyone practised water conservation. With this in mind, NPDC wants to consult with local residents to understand how hard NPDC should tackle water conservation.

Continuation of current water consumption trends and ongoing water conservation actions.

Total water consumption per person is calculated by adding residential and non-residential consumption with leakage, and dividing this figure by the population served. This is the same thing gross per capita consumption.

This scenario looks to carry out foundational actions above and beyond the status quo to encourage a reduction in demand for water across user groups. Achieving a 20% reduction in water use would require significant investment and behaviour change, but represents the minimum change needed to protect the environment and postpone the need for a new water source. A Water Conservation Officer and Universal Water Metering are key actions here, apart from continuing with ongoing water conservation actions.

This scenario would increase the capacity of initiatives proposed for the 20% reduction as well as introducing pressure management in additional locations. A target of 25% savings would require greater community behaviour change, but would further increase our current water supply system’s longevity, and safeguard the health of our rivers.

This scenario provides a framework for even more extensive water conservation improvements additional to the 25% level. It represents the most stringent course of action, and could be expected to reduce water demand by 30%. This option would allow us even longer to add a new water source to the supply system, while prioritising the environment and existing infrastructure. Additional initiatives include the My Council platform and support for tailored water conservation programmes by commercial users.

Using meters to measure and charge for water consumption is the most important and effective element of the water conservation actions because so many other initiatives are dependent on the information meters provide. Whilst there are numerous water demand management methods that can be employed to achieve a reduction in water usage, these do not in general meet the criteria of being fair and equitable or reduce the daily peak water demands. Water metering, including volumetric billing, is the only action on its own that has been successfully proven to reduce water demand in other municipalities, being more effective in locking down the reduction when included as part of a wider water conservation programme.

Universal Water Metering helps reduce domestic demand by giving users the data to understand and manage their consumption and by giving a financial incentive for using less. The additional data can also be used to optimise network management, leak detection and education initiatives.

Universal water metering is now common within New Zealand with over half of the population having a meter and paying volumetrically. Water New Zealand’s National Performance Review for 2018/19 shows a strong correlation between metering and low per capita water consumption, with the best examples being Auckland, Tauranga and the Western Bay of Plenty, cities which have around half the residential per capita consumption when compared with New Plymouth. The same publication states that over half of residential properties in New Zealand now have a water meter.

Metering also delivers on social equity in the sense that users pay for their own water usage rather than subsidising the use of other consumers; it is so much fairer. Metering and charging for water use brings this utility into line with other domestic consumables such as electricity and gas.

The table sets out the specific actions NPDC believes will enable us to achieve water savings. It shows how water conservation actions will either be added or expanded (different scenarios) as we move from the status quo through to higher levels of water savings. Each action can be applied to one or more of the four demand areas (Residential, Municipal, Industrial and Commercial, and Leakages), and/or contribute to better Data Collection and Management.

In terms of timing, all the proposed actions are intended to happen in the short term (2021-2024) unless stated as longer term (2024-2031) initiatives.

Click on each action for additional details.