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It Pays to be Skeptical

Updated: Oct 4, 2022

Victor Luca


Dear Editor,

Whilst on the campaign trail, I have heard many times, statements by certain candidates that the drinking water standards are becoming more stringent under the new regulatory framework presided over by the new water regulator known as Taumata Arowai.

Such statements are patently incorrect as I have explained to councilors on many occasions. I have also explained the situation to the general public in my 29-Jun-22 Beacon opinion piece entitled 'Three Waters Reforms and Drinking Water Quality'.

In fact, the Maximum Allowed Values (MAVs) for a handful of contaminants (determinands) have actually been relaxed under the new regulations rather than being made more stringent (See Table below). For instance, the MAV for barium has gone from 0.7 to 1.50 mg/L, for boron it has gone from 1.40 to 2.50 mg/L, for selenium from 0.01 to 0.04 mg/L and uranium from 0.02 to 0.03 mg/L and similarly for another four determinands. Out of more than 130 determinands only a handful have changed, and they are not more stringent.

What is new is that the regulations will be applied to more people. It is also likely that a better job will be done of monitoring and enforcing compliance than has been done to date. So now, if you are a water supplier, you will have to comply with the not so new 'new' standards which have certainly NOT been made more stringent. Previously a 'supplier' was an entity supplying water to 500 people or more households. Now, if you own or operate a water supply that provides drinking water to more than one household, then you are considered a drinking water supplier.

The table below is a comparison of selected determinands along with their respective MAVs under the old 2008 regulations, the draft regulations published in 2021 and the new legislated regulations. Even casual inspection of the table should make it clear what is going on. Certainly the standards are not more stringent!

Another unsubstantiated claim I kept hearing on the campaign trail was that WDC's emissions have been reducing since 2017 when emissions related to waste water treatment are disregarded. As I have pointed out many times (including in the form of a written report to councilors), within the uncertainties in the data, this interpretation cannot be justified. Adding emissions from wastewater treatment and things such as harvesting of plantation forestry can send council’s emissions quickly skyward. Anyone that is interested can contact me and I will be happy to explain. Or they can visit my website.

When it comes to saving the planet, we should not indulge in self-deception, because self-deception is self-defeating.

Are we turning into Trump land?

Table of New Zealand drinking water standards past and present.

NZDWS comparison table
Download XLSX • 724KB

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