Are we tak­ing wa­ter for granted?

Matamata Chronicle - - Your Local News - UR­SULA EDGINGTON

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.

MIKE BAIN

Dr Ur­sula Edgington.

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