Lots of rain but wa­ter dries up

Marlborough Express - - NEWS - SAMSTRONG

Con­cerned res­i­dents of a town on the West Coast have probed au­thor­i­ties for an­swers about their wa­ter cri­sis at a pub­lic meet­ing.

West­port and Carters Beach’s 4100 res­i­dents have been put on es­sen­tial-use-only re­stric­tions, mean­ing they are only al­lowed to use wa­ter for drink­ing, cook­ing and san­i­ta­tion pur­poses.

The town’s three wa­ter reser­voirs sat at 46 per cent ca­pac­ity by Wed­nes­day. Res­i­dents were told that would last six days based on av­er­age con­sump­tion if the al­ter­nate sup­ply pump stopped work­ing.

West­port – one of the wettest places in New Zealand – re­ceives about 2000 mil­lime­tres of rain a year. How­ever, its wa­ter us­age av­er­ages 986 litres a per­son – three times the na­tional daily av­er­age – be­cause some farms use the town sup­ply.

Al­most 200 peo­ple turned out for the pub­lic meet­ing in West­port on Wed­nes­day.

Some of the crowd were an­gered by a lack of com­mu­ni­ca­tion from the coun­cil when a burst valve left West­port with­out wa­ter for six hours on Mon­day.

Res­i­dents ques­tioned mayor Garry Howard and coun­cil as­sets and in­fras­truc­ture man­ager Mike Duff about short-term prob­lems such as stor­age ca­pac­ity, al­ter­na­tive pumps, wa­ter leaks and emer­gency pro­ce­dures.

Duff said the coun­cil’s im­me­di­ate fo­cus was on do­ing ‘‘ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble’’ to avoid run­ning out of wa­ter.

A sup­ple­men­tary sup­ply at Bal­larat Creek, which pumps 20 litres of wa­ter per sec­ond, was now op­er­at­ing and the coun­cil had or­dered four 30,000-litre wa­ter tanks.

The town’s im­me­di­ate cri­sis fol­lows months try­ing to find a so­lu­tion to the area’s wa­ter sup­ply woes, which was sparked by a ma­jor col­lapse in the town’s long­est sup­ply tun­nel in 2014.

An­other col­lapse in late 2016 made the tun­nel un­us­able.

Wa­ter was pumped from an al­ter­na­tive creek into the wa­ter reser­voirs and treat­ment plant, but this had to be turned off in heavy rain be­cause of de­bris in the wa­ter.

A re­port on mid-term fixes, last­ing be­tween three and six years, is ex­pected to be pre­sented at the coun­cil’s Oc­to­ber meet­ing.

Long-term al­ter­na­tive sup­ply op­tions that would last up to 100 years are ex­pected later this year.

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