Are we taking water for granted?
Travelling through the South Island I realised I was guilty of taking some things for granted, like a reliable mobile phone signal, easy access to the internet and a place to study in public libraries.
But these everyday needs sometimes prove more difficult than anticipated when living and working away from the Waikato.
Another everyday need I previously took for granted was clean water.
Just turn on the tap, and there is safe water to drink, right?
Most readers will be aware of the recent high-profile concerns and surrounding controversies about the risks to New Zealand’s water systems posed by contamination from environmental toxins.
Does living in the Waikato make us immune to these risks?
In some areas of South Island, I’ve discovered residents simply can’t take water for granted.
At the top of South Island we camped in the beautiful area of Golden Bay, and discovered the taps could not provide safe drinking water.
But this wasn’t an isolated case. For example, travelling East, in rural Parnassus, households have been on a ‘‘boil water notice’’ on and off for the past seven years.
According to the local council, the disastrous Kaikoura earthquake exacerbated their already struggling water infrastructure, and they hope to able to lift the ‘boil water notice’’ at some point soon (although the exact date is unknown).
It was poignant to see that the tap at the public water fountain in nearby Cheviot had been removed; a brass plaque proudly commemorates the opening of Cheviot Water Supply in 1971.
Questions remain about whether the effectiveness and maintenance of these historic water systems has kept pace with modern-day pressures considering the national population has grown by 60 per cent and tourist visitors has increased by more than 600 per cent over this time-frame.
Some argue how risks of water contamination are even greater in North Island, where agricultural, environmental and industrial pollutants are more pervasive.
Why can’t New Zealand offer our ambitious internationallycompeting sportspeople healthier water?
What has gone wrong with New Zealand’s Clean, Green, 100% Pure image that prevents our tourists and citizens from relying on safe water to drink and to swim in?
No more complaints from me about the taste and smell of water.
And after my travelling experiences, I will certainly be insisting on satisfactory answers about New Zealand’s water from politicians hoping to win my vote in forthcoming elections.
-Waikato’s Dr Ursula Edgington is an independent writer, researcher and tertiary teacher, specialising in issues of equality and learning quality.
Dr Ursula Edgington.