Water supply and effective wastewater and stormwater systems ensure urban environments function properly. In addition, the ‘three waters’ deliver public health, economic and quality of life benefits for communities. Managing them well has environmental benefits, provides for city growth, ensures there is enough water to go around, and that reservoirs, pipes and pump stations can cope with demand.
During today’s briefing Wellington Water advised Council that community expectations on water are changing, that plans need to be put in place to address the forecast impacts of climate change on our water infrastructure, and that current funding for the three waters infrastructure is inadequate to meet expectations.
“Due to the way New Zealand cities have grown, many have infrastructure that’s nearing the end of its useful life, or is simply underperforming. Since that infrastructure was built, people’s expectations about what’s acceptable, such as allowing wastewater to enter the environment has changed. So has the climate which affects key environmental factors such as rainfall and sea levels,” says Mark Kinvig Group Manager, Network Strategy and Planning at Wellington Water.
Hutt City Council Chief Executive, Jo Miller says the three waters, and the infrastructure needed to look after it properly, is fundamental to a functioning city and the well-being of its residents.
“In Lower Hutt, around 60% of the city’s water infrastructure needs to be renewed in the next 30 years. On top of that, the city is expecting population to grow by 10-20% in that time.
“The data and research available to us now demonstrates that comprehensive planning and investment is needed. This is not an issue we can afford to defer. We don’t want to be in the same position as others, where water systems have failed or are failing, putting people and places at risk.
At the briefing Lower Hutt Mayor Campbell Barry said that council was not afraid of tackling the issues and wants to have early discussions with the community about water. “Lower Hutt is not alone in facing these challenges, they are New Zealand-wide issues, and council is prepared to deal with them.
“The past approach has made the most of the funding available to ensure the asset’s lifespan is extended as much as possible. The information shows we need to do more when it comes to our core infrastructure. We are signalling that a significant investment in underground water infrastructure to improve performance and support growth must be one of our top priorities. Now is the time to plan well for the future and make funding decisions that will give the city the most control over the circumstances it faces, rather than having the circumstance control the city.
“I’m looking forward to discussing the proposal with the community and deciding on our next steps together. I’m confident that they’ll understand the need to invest in our three waters infrastructure.”
Policy and planning are also part of the equation, for example by having the right requirements in place for new builds, such as on-site stormwater storage; reducing water consumption to delay costly investment in new sources; or ensuring private pipes are performing well.
Initial indicative financial implications are suggesting an estimated $30M increase in operational expenditure over ten years to improve maintenance of existing infrastructure and allow for robust planning. A further estimated $240M capital investment is needed over a decade for the replacement, renewals and to meet new demands. Further discussions are to be progressed in understanding the priorities and possible options to address this problem. This will be a key part of developing the Council’s next Long Term Plan.
In the interim as part of the Council’s 2020/21 draft Annual Plan process, additional funding has been set aside for:
- Water Supply $10.7M investment over ten years for reservoirs to support growth and seismic strengthening.
- Wastewater $23M investment over ten years to support the Petone Collector Main and Outfall pipeline overflow mitigation.
Council meets on 11 February to formally consider the issues that the public will be consulted on ahead of this.
What does Lower Hutt’s three waters look like?
- Length of pipes: over 2,000km (drinking water, wastewater, stormwater)
- Number of pump stations: 74
- Number of reservoirs: 24
How much money do we spend on water?
Hutt City Council has allocated in its budget almost $270M over the next ten years (2020/21 to 2029/2030) for three waters capital investment. The operating budget comprises $621M over ten years for water services.
The amount of money Hutt City Council has allocated on three waters in the current financial year (2019/2020) is $50.2M operating expenditure and $15.2M capital expenditure.
Why haven’t we tackled this issue before?
A vibrant city has multiple needs; now is the right time to address increasing infrastructure investment
As our original city infrastructure reaches its nominal end-of-life now is the time to make funding decisions that will give the city the most control over the circumstances it faces, rather than having the circumstance control the city.
The proposed investment includes funding to support improved asset management techniques, such as increased condition monitoring and the use of data analytics to improve decision-making.
Who manages our water?
Wellington Water is jointly owned by the Hutt, Porirua, Upper Hutt and Wellington City Councils, the South Wairarapa District Council and Greater Wellington Regional Council.
It is a council owned, shared service organisation, providing three waters network management services to the six local authorities.
Why don’t we ask developers to pay?
This is something we are considering. Wellington Water will be undertaking studies into the infrastructure requirements to enable growth in Wainuiomata and on the valley floor (including housing intensification) that will enable the cost of growth to be explored with developers.
Developers fund storage and new infrastructure to new standards. This money is required to restore old infrastructure to new performance standards.
What will happen if we don’t plan now?
If we don’t plan for the future, eventually our water systems will fail and the operation costs to react will be very expensive. Bandaid solutions cost more in the long run.
Will there be an increase in my rates to fund this?
That’s the purpose of consultation, to hear what the community wants to focus on. Council is working with Wellington Water to investigate the costs and funding over the coming decade to look at all the options.