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Water, water everywhere, but it may cost a bit to drink.

The new regulations around rural drinking water compliance were outlined at a series of information sessions in Central Otago last week.

Ensuring water was safe to drink could cost rural people upwards of $2300 for an ultraviolet (UV) system and up to $15,000 for a pre-treatment system, depending on the size of operation.

An installer of the equipment, Mark Crosland of Pure Water Central, said there were variables in the quality of rural water.

If it was of reasonable standard, a whole-house UV system would be required. These ranged in price and size depending on size of application, the number of people living in the house and water quality, and cost between $1450 and $2300 plus installation.

If pre-treatment was required because of excessive sediment, high hardness or iron/manganese, which were common issues, a treatment system would cost anywhere from $1600 to $15,000 and upwards for large commercial operations, he said.

Ongoing monitoring or drinking water standard testing would be available for around $250, depending on requirements.

At the information sessions, it was acknowledged the new regulations in the Government’s Water Services Bill, due to be passed as an Act this year, were significant for rural people.

With the spectre of the deadly 2016 Havelock North campylobacter outbreak still haunting New Zealand, and the more recent lead contamination north of Dunedin causing concern, it had become clear that “the status quo is not an option”, guest speaker, Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan, said.

During and after the sessions, Mr Cadogan reiterated some key messages.

“Change is coming. Water regulations have never been enforced. Now they will be enforced.”

Infringements could mean possible imprisonment of up to five years and fines of up to $600,000 for non-compliance. There was a bottom line:

“If you’re providing water to another person other than yourself it has to be safe,” he said.

Key points people should bear in mind included:

six houses can operate off the same water supply without regulation.

After the Bill is passed, that arrangement will cease and any more than one house will be designated a scheme and liable for all the new requirements of the Act.

bore water supply to their house only will not be affected by the new regulations, but if the property is a farm, and also supplying other buildings, such as a farm cottage, workers’ quarters, or shearing sheds, then they would be “captured” by the regulations. Multiple rural dwellings would require a point of use water treatment system.

water schemes provide water to about 3300 Central Otago residents. The onus would be very much on the operators of these schemes to ensure safe drinking water. And if these operators could not keep within the scheme, it could mean the Central Otago District Council having to step in and take over.

In the interim, while the bill was being thrashed out, Mr Cadogan advised people to do nothing, but to keep themselves informed. The council would be doing its best to keep people up-to-date. He stressed that the situation might not be as onerous as first thought.

“We’ve got very used to Health and Safety, and it’s just something that we do now.”