A seamless network of clean water supply and discharge of wastewater is the backbone of any thriving city. Of course, Auckland is no exception.

Every day, residents of the city use this network to obtain clean water for their drinking and other household needs. They also expel a large amount of wastewater that goes down to the drain and subsequently to wastewater treatment plants.

 The sheer volume of water that this network carries every day can be overwhelming for the assets. Therefore, there is a need to consistently protect the infrastructure from crumbling. Else, there is a chance of both clean water and wastewater being contaminated.

 Watercare typically does an excellent job of handling this network of water in Auckland. However, there are still instances where the water may get polluted.

 To avoid such incidences, Auckland uses a bylaw that the city council seeks to amend. Read on to know more about why this amendment is required and how it can help protect Auckland's water supply infrastructure.


How the Networks Could be Damaged


So, why do contaminations occur in these water networks that affect the infrastructure? Here are a few common reasons.


Illegal Connections


Although Watercare does its best to provide a streamlined method that households can use to avail a connection to the water network, there are always chances that some illegal connections spring up across the city now and then.

 Those who do not pay heed to the consents required for setting up a new connection and forcefully try to enter the network through dishonest means contribute to the overburdening of the network.

 As the population of the city grows, it becomes harder for Watercare to keep tabs on new connections, both to the water supply and to the wastewater network. Such connections may also cause a shortage in water supply making those with valid connections bear the brunt.


Illegal Discharges


For discharge, you need a valid connection to the wastewater network. Watercare handles all wastewater discharge connections.

 Discharges to the wastewater network also require authorization from Watercare. Some people tend to go around the law and dump unnecessary contaminants into the wastewater. This can not only choke the sewers systems but also cause unwarranted pressure on the wastewater treatment systems.

 Watercare is responsible for what goes into the discharged water and anything that is not authorized can slow down the entire process of wastewater drainage. Such illegal discharges can also cause pollution and be hazardous for those who work with the wastewater discharge systems.


Misuse by Residents


Sometimes, people who take legal connections to both the water supply and the discharge networks can be responsible for damaging the infrastructure, too. They might, accidentally or deliberately, choke up the clean water supply network by interfering with the supply.

 They might also pollute the discharge network by discarding items that are either not authorized or not authorized in higher quantities. Such items typically include things that are not biodegradable and harm the quality of the water in one way or another.

 Such irresponsible interference can also cause damage to the assets, the cleaning and repairing of which can be a costly affair for Watercare and the council of Auckland.


Undertaking Work Nearby


Construction workers who need to commence a project must always verify with Watercare to ensure they are not carrying out any potentially damaging work near any of their assets. This includes work that a homeowner may want to carry out in their backyard.

 Supervisors and contractors can easily identify critical assets such as transmission network pipes, wastewater rising mains, and local network pipes with a diameter over 300m through a GIS map. If the work to be done is close to these assets, they must adhere to all permissions and accesses required and mark the critical assets.

 When work begins without prior approval, there is always a danger of disturbing the critical assets, possibly even affecting the water supply. If digging and blasting begin without sufficient knowledge of which water network runs close to the site, it further poses a risk of contamination of both the water supply and the discharge networks.


What Does the Bylaw Amendment Seek?


Auckland's council abides by a bylaw that ensures the water networks, both supply and discharge, remain protected. The last update to this bylaw was in 2015.

There is a need to now make some amendments to the bylaw to make it clearer to both experts and the general public. Here is what the new amendment wishes to accomplish.


Consents from Watercare


Although there is a tried-and-tested process in place within Watercare to grant access to new connections, the amendment hopes it can provide more clarification.

Getting a new connection to the water supply and the discharge networks requires consent from Watercare. There are, however, exemptions to this rule. Many times, these exemptions can confuse people and they might end up not asking for consent where consent is required, or vice versa.

There is a need to further clarify these exemptions so that households hoping to obtain new connections know when and whom to reach out to at Watercare.


Preventing the Discharge of Harmful Waste


A significant amount of contamination in the water discharge network occurs because homeowners who have access to the network are unsure of what can be discharged and what cannot. The bylaw amendment would like to provide more clarification on prohibited items, including, but not limited to, diapers, wipes, and sanitary products.

There is also contamination occurring from discharge caused by private water networks, which must be regularized. The bylaw amendment can hopefully prevent unintentional spillage of prohibited items by creating more awareness among users.


Avoiding Unauthorized Use of the Network


Those who do not have legal access to the water network of Auckland and yet use the network for supply or discharge would be treated as causing intentional harm to the water network. The amendment would want to clarify the offenses regarding such unauthorized use.

Even those who have legal connections would not be allowed to obstruct the network in any manner. Using the discharge requires approval and the bylaw amendment seeks to provide clarity on the kind of approval homeowners or private water networks must get.

Finally, the amendment hopes to generate more awareness on works undertaken near the water network to prevent contamination of water and protect critical assets.


Auckland's Step Forward


Auckland is a self-sustaining city with the council usually doing a good job of providing optimum levels of water to its residents. However, as the population in the city continues to rise, the threat of water scarcity begins to loom.

To avoid a situation where the water supply suffers, the council must maintain the health of the supply and the discharge networks. Watercare holds this responsibility and carries out the tasks well but residents should also be aware of the do's and don'ts when using the public water network.

A thorough evaluation of the existing bylaw and a clarified version of an updated one is a step forward towards creating a clean, abundant, water supply and discharge ecosystem in the city.


Additional Sources

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