Lots of rain but water dries up
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.