After this summer’s drought few will be surprised to read that: “Current demand for water already equals or exceeds availability in some surface water bodies and aquifers in Auckland. Projected future growth is expected to increase competition for freshwater.”
According to the last State of Auckland Region Report produced by the council in 2010, water quality on most measures at most sites was either stable or improving between 1995 and 2005. But there is clearly still work to do, as the report also noted that fresh water quality is poor in streams, wetlands, vulnerable aquifers and lakes. The Plan proposes a host of regulatory measures to maintain water quality standards by controlling demand, erosion, run-off, and wastewater flows. It also envisages and hopes for even greater tangata whenua participation in water management issues in the years to come.
Another proposed aim is the retention of the natural profile and course of all rivers or streams, keeping riparian vegetation and fish passage wherever possible and taking action to avoid sediment build up. This would be achieved partly by prohibiting development on, under or over lakes, rivers and streams unless there is no viable alternative and effectively banning any material extraction from lakes, streams and wetlands, except where it is required to enhance the ecological value of the feature or provide public access. Livestock would also be permanently excluded from watercourses to prevent damage to bank areas, soil erosion and water pollution.
The provision of water and wastewater services to people throughout the Auckland region is now the responsibility of Watercare. Wholly owned by the council, the company supplies around 370 million litres of drinking water to the people of Auckland and treats around 350 million litres of wastewater and trade waste. Its 2012 annual report stated that it was managing assets valued at $7.8 billion and was generated $373 million in revenue a year. Its key target in addition to meeting the region’s water demand is to reduce that demand by 15% on 2004 levels by 2025. This would decrease pressure on its own systems and on the region’s environment as a whole, and will include maintaining water metering across the region as well as working with the government on new guidelines to minimise water use in homes and businesses.
The Plan also allows for the use of carefully treated ‘biosolids’ as agricultural fertiliser, an approach which is gaining ground around the world as means of effectively recycling sewage sludge to reduce the financial cost and environmental risks of disposing of it in landfill.