New Zealand is diving into a major freshwater crisis.
This week, a report from Stuff.co.nz said that more than 60 per cent of monitored water forms in the country are not safe for swimming. The contaminated water supply is poisoning residents with the deadly E. coli bacteria, with half of the Havelock North population struck with the waterborne disease. As such, drinking from the tap is out of the question for the panic-stricken communities.
In the present situation, what can Kiwis rely on for their water supply, and what steps are there to take to resolve the crisis?
Drilling for Clean Water
Well drilling has become a widespread practice, especially in rural areas. With clean water more elusive than ever, residents resort to this undertaking to fill the need for a potable supply.
There is no guarantee, however, that water from private wells is always suitable for drinking. Residents of areas such as Canterbury, where there are thousands of water wells, are becoming wary of ensuring the safety of the supply they are getting. In 2014, the Canterbury Regional Council began a pilot awareness campaign, which encouraged the thorough testing of water quality of private wells.
The Environment Canterbury Director of Investigations stressed that private well owners must be aware of activities that may contaminate their water supply. Farming activities such as horticultural spraying may cause chemicals to leach into the soil and consequently affect nearby bodies of water.
‘Bird Cull Can Fix Water Quality’ – Environment Minister
Whilst Canterbury residents seemed to solve the water problem by using private wells, Environment Minister Nick Smith says that a bird cull can improve the water quality of NZ rivers and lagoons. The minister pointed out that most bodies of water in the country are inhabited by birds, most of which are carriers of bacteria and other contaminants.
In August, Dr Smith stated that making NZ waters ‘wadeable’ is the government’s objective. But, many environmentalists said it should not end at that, as the need for potable water continues to loom.
New Zealand has had hundreds of water contamination cases in the past few years. Whether or not these solutions will work to avoid similar situations in the future still leaves a lot to be seen.