Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Potential emergency water source beneath Wellington Harbour contaminated

Wellington’s water PREDICAMENT

The Hutt River - a major source of Wellington's drinking water - is extremely low for this time of year.

I have been ringing warning bells about the water situation in the Wellington region but it has all been following on deaf ears that are determined to avoid the real nature of the problem.

When I moved to Wellington 30 years ago – and when Imoved to Lower Hutt 10 years ago – I could never have imagined in my worst dreams that Wellington, of all places, would have problems with water.

But there we are.

That’s what you get with unacknowledged abrupt climate change and terrible decisions by policymakers who are determined not to hear the truth and follow policies that have more to do with keeping the ponzi scheme (otherwise known as ‘the economy’) going and giving work to their contractor friends.

It is a microcosm of what is happening everywhere and is a predicament by any definition.

Listen to the conversation recorded 2 years ago. Nothing has changed very much but it has got worse.

The following are some articles that point to the magnitude of the problem.

The Government is funding $6m of emergency water supplies for the Wellington region alongside councils in the region, ...

27 June, 2017

A drill to tap 70 metres below the sea floor of Wellington Harbour has been set off to help right the wrong that Wellington is just one of two New Zealand cities without its own local water supplies.

Along with Porirua, the capital has been given $6 million of Government funding to fix the problem, which would give people more certainty of water after a big quake.

Most of the city's water is carried by pipes along the Hutt Rd, crossing an identified fault line. Should they be severely damaged, the capital could face weeks without water.

Potential emergency water source beneath Wellington Harbour contaminated
Hopes of finding an emergency drinking water supply beneath Wellington Harbour have been dealt a blow, with the first source turning out to be too contaminated.

The drill working on an exploratory bore off Miramar Peninsula. It found water, but it was too contaminated to be ...

5 December, 2017

When two aquifers were found during drilling in August, the discovery was hailed as a potential lifesaver for the city, in the event of piped water supplies being cut off by a big earthquake.

The majority of the city's water is supplied via a pipe running along State Highway 2, which lies right on a faultline.

An artist's impression of what a community water station would look like. A total of 22 of them would operate across ...
An artist's impression of what a community water station would look like. A total of 22 of them would operate across Wellington, Porirua and the Hutt Valley.

If this line were severed, it is predicted the city and eastern suburbs could be without water for up to 100 days.

Wellington Water believed at first that supplies found in an aquifer 800 metres off Miramar Peninsula could be treated to counteract the presence of manganese, iron and ammonia.

Howver, on Tuesday, project director Ulvi Salayev​ told city councillors that, after completing the bore, the water was more contaminated than first thought, and would be too costly to treat.

Wellington Water would now try a second bore, on an aquifer closer to Matiu/Somes Island, he said.

"We are hoping for better water, with less treatment and less costs."

He expected the bore programme would be completed by June next year.

Wellington has only enough reserves to supply the city for 19 hours at normal usage.

The bores are one solution to the water supply vulnerability. Another includes the creation of a cross-harbour pipeline, which is the least preferred option because it would be a lot more expensive and run over a faultline.

As well as drilling in the harbour, 11 land-based bores are being drilled, and 11 stream-fed emergency water hubs established around the region.

On Thursday, city councillors will vote on approving the installation of community water stations at parks in Linden, Glenside, Johnsonville, Nairnville, Khandallah and Wrights Hill Reserve, subject to public consultation. The areas concerned will also include a small part of the Town Belt within the Berhampore nursery.

The stations, which are a $12 million joint venture between Wellington Water and the Government, would start operating after day eight without a water supply, and would be the main source of water until any damaged pipes were repaired.

They would be among 22 such stations that Wellington Water would operate in the Wellington region, Porirua and the Hutt Valley.

The stations are part of a community infrastructure resilience project that also includes building and upgrading reservoirs, establishing local distribution points for emergency drinking water bladders, subsurface water exploration, and the evaluation of desalination treatment.

This is a description of Wellington’s problems at the beginning of summer.

Wellington water woes 'unheard of' this time of year

The Wellington region's emergency water supply has already been tapped into, as rivers dry out in an unusually warm and dry start to summer.
no caption

Wellington Water said just over 6 percent of the water stored in the Te Marua storage lakes had been used to top up the region's regular supply.

Community engagement manager Alex van Passen said it was important the water in the storage lakes lasted all summer.

"What's been really unusual about this summer so far is it's just so early for us to have been tapping into our lake supply, it's just unheard of really for us to be using lake water to supplement that river and aquifer supply in November."

Mr van Passen said water use had dropped to 161 million litres a day, and if it stayed at that level, the lakes should last until the end of summer.

He said during the Christmas holiday period water demand usually dropped off, and some ground could be gained supply-wise during that time.

But he said restrictions on water use were expected to stay in place.

Wellington Water's manager of treatment plant operations Jeremy McKibbin said there had been a drop in water usage on Friday.

He said if people continued to be careful with their water there was no reason there would be a total ban on using water outdoors.

A sprinkler ban was put in place in the past week, but people could still water their gardens with a hose.

We have toxic algal blooms in the first days of summer

Swimmers told to avoid Hutt River after discovery of 'potentially fatal' toxic algae 

It is looking grim for the Hutt River over summer with swimmers, particularly young children, being told to stay out of the water to avoid contact with potentially fatal toxic algae.


Toxic algae blooms have become more common concern for the Hutt River in recent years.
Toxic algae blooms have become more common concern for the Hutt River in recent years.
29 November, 2017

Greater Wellington Regional Council and Regional Public Health say people and animals should avoid the Hutt River between Kaitoke Regional Park and where the river mouth meets Wellington Harbour, until further notice.
Greater Wellington environmental scientist Mark Heath a recent run of the warm, dry weather across the region was to blame for the sudden algal bloom.
Swimmers are being advised to stay out of the Hutt River to avoid a lethal dose of toxic algae. (FILE PHOTO)
Swimmers are being advised to stay out of the Hutt River to avoid a lethal dose of toxic algae. (FILE PHOTO)
"This means pieces of algae are breaking off rocks and floating downriver in much larger quantities than usual, and this has become a risk to swimmers as well as dogs," he said.

"Even very small amounts of toxic algae, if swallowed, can cause serious illness and - although unlikely - can potentially be fatal."
This week, the council had seen a sudden increase in the number of algal mats floating down the river. Without rain, this is likely to get worse, Heath said.
"So the chance of accidentally swallowing an algal mat is much higher than usual, and we think this justifies a warning to stay out of the river."
Jill McKenzie, of Regional Public Health, said the most common symptoms of algal poisoning were nausea, vomiting, numbness, tingling, muscle twitches, shaking, weakness, breathing difficulties and potentially convulsions and loss of consciousness.
"These symptoms would usually occur soon after exposure," she said. "If you are concerned about potential health risks, consult your doctor."
Heath said toxic algae gave off an earthy/musty smell that attracted dogs.
"It usually gets caught up in rocks on the river bank so, with the volume of algae we are seeing, we encourage owners to keep their dogs safe on a lead and well away from the water."
Separately, Lower Hutt residents are being told their water is safe to drink, despite an "earthy" taste.
Wellington Water emphasised there was no link between the taste of the water and the algal mats. "We collect water from the Hutt River above the point where toxic algae has been collected," a spokesman said.
It said it had identified the cause of the bad taste, but was still using the water because of high demand caused by the warmer weather.
Residents are being told to cool tap water in a jug for 30 minutes to improve the taste.

Available water only outstripped usage by two million litres, and that was with the region already drawing heavily from emergency lake supplies that would normally remain untapped until late January
More water restrictions likely in Wellington as emergency reserves are drained
Wellington's water crisis is deepening despite usage dropping with the rollout of a sprinkler ban, and more restrictions are likely sooner rather than later.

1 December, 2017

On Friday, available water only outstripped usage by two million litres, and that was with the region already drawing heavily from emergency lake supplies that would normally remain untapped until late January.

On first day of summer, seven per cent of the water in the lakes at Te Marua, north of Upper Hutt, had been drawn away.
The Hutt River - a major source of Wellington's drinking water - is extremely low for this time of year.
The Hutt River - a major source of Wellington's drinking water - is extremely low for this time of year.
Wellington Water treatment plants manager Jeremy McKibbin said daily usage had fallen from 182 million litres to 173 million litres since restrictions on sprinklers were imposed on Wednesday night.

But the total amount of water available had also fallen from 185 million litres to 175 million litres, leaving only a minimal buffer.
The first day of summer saw Wellington's Oriental Bay Beach packed with sun-seekers during a prolonged spell of fine weather.
The first day of summer saw Wellington's Oriental Bay Beach packed with sun-seekers during a prolonged spell of fine weather.
Target usage sat at 160 million litres per day for the region, and McKibbin urged residents to stick to the restrictions.
"Every drop we take out of the lakes is a drop we don't have at the end of summer when we really need it. It is relatively serious."
In 23 years working on Wellington's water supply McKibbin said he hadn't seen water levels so low in November, or restrictions come into forced this early in the year.
"Unless we do see some reduction in demand we may have to move to some more serious outdoor use bans sooner rather than later. I'm hoping we get a good enough response from the public that we don't have to do that."
A total ban on outdoor water use, including restrictions on washing cars and buildings, could be a possibility.
Some areas had been cohering the existing bans more stringently than others, with residents in the Lower Hutt suburb of Eastbourne seeming to be the worst offenders for ignoring sprinkler restrictions – indicated by the number of residents dobbing in their neighbours and continued high water usage.
Wellington Water would be dropping off fliers to offending properties if residents continued to use sprinklers, with the possibility of prosecutions if residents continued.
Metservice meteorologist Lisa Murray said November was the second-driest year since records began in 1927.
This dry spell coincided with four of the eight bores at the Knight Rd aquifer being out of action due to emergency upgrades, which would usually supply around half the region's water.
But there may be some relief on the horizon with a new UV treatment facility at Waiwhetu Aquifer expected to be online in a couple of weeks, which would increase the amount of water that could be drawn.
Sunshine hours had leapt up, with recordings from Kelburn showing hours jumping from 180 hours last year, to 251 in 2017.
Although the ridge of high pressure that has been sitting over Wellington for the past couple of weeks was expected to weaken this weekend, Murray said the the weather continues to be generally sunny and dry.
A number of councils around the region have also put voluntary restrictions in place for their own water usage, including limiting the watering of parks, plantings, and the washing of cars and buildings.


Wellington City Council has already cut back on irrigation, but the city still intends to keep watering its sports fields, public lawns and plant collections.
Parks, sports and recreation manager Paul Andrews said it would explore other ways to save on water "if the drought conditions continue".
It would water by hand "where practical", pause field renovations until autumn 2018, defer its annual building washdowns, set sprinklers for early mornings and evenings, and might stop or empty some of the city's water features.
Porirua City Council will cut back on watering parks, lawns and gardens.
In a statement, the council's chief operating officer Tamsin Evans said residents would see some parks and reserves quickly "browning off".
"We want to do the right thing and conserve water as much as possible but at the same time we have recently invested in upgrading three of our key sports fields; Porirua Park, Endeavour Park and Ngāti Toa Domain, so we need to keep watering to ensure the grass establishes properly.
"Loss of condition would jeopardise the playing surfaces for winter and we'd face significant renovation costs."
Porirua Park and Endeavour Park had in-ground irrigation systems which will operate at night. Ngāti Toa Domain will be watered morning and evening by a mobile irrigator.
Watering at the nursery would be done during cooler times of the day to protect young plants being  grown for next winter's planting season.


Hutt City Council parks manager Bruce Hodgins said contractors had been instructed to restrict water usage.
A small amount of watering was being done but only in the morning or evening to minimise evaporation and only on a required basis.
Some areas still required watering, including particular plants in the Percy Reserve nursery and cricket pitches, Hodgins said.


In Carterton, no suspension of irrigating garden beds or washing council cars or buildings had been adopted, with thunderstorms earlier in the week taking pressure off supplies.
Infrastructure and Services Manager Garry Baker said some water restrictions were in place due to the low flow in the Kaipaitangata stream.
"Staff will be monitoring daily usage; if usage gets to high we will have introduce stage two of water restriction. Stage two only allows for the use of hand held hosing on alternate days."
"If the situation worsens, we will then activate stage three, which would see a complete hosing ban."
"Due to the low river flow, we have already started irrigating wastewater to Daleton Farm. This started on 11 November which is at least five weeks earlier than the last three years. This proves what a dry season we are already having."


On the Kāpiti Coast, it is unlikely that water restrictions will need to be introduced this summer.

Infrastructure Services group manager Sean Mallon said water consumption across the district had reduced since water meters were introduced in 2014.

"People are now more aware of their water consumption and, as a result, peak water consumption has reduced by more than 26 percent."

Mallon said this had helped the council secure more than enough water to manage even the worst drought conditions.

"If we have an extremely dry summer we can call on our bores to recharge the river if river levels get low, but this will not require us to apply water restrictions."

In Lower Hutt our previously pristine water has been permanently chlorinated. All this has been put down to the earthquake but it is likely that this was human error for which there has been a major cover-up.

It is amazing how quickly things can fall apart.

Things can seem to be normal until they are not. This is the nature of trigger points. Things change seemingly under the surface until something happens and ‘suddenly’ you have a full-blown crisis on your hands.

One example is the nation’s waterways. Those of us of a certain age can remember clean rivers where we could swim and didn’t have to worry about putting our heads under water. We knew, in recent years, that we had a problem but this has in the last year of an extreme neo-liberal government and the takeover of the country by dairy become a serious crisis that is now being written about every day.

So it is with our local community.

Lower Hutt, and especially Petone, has had some of the purest aquifer water anywhere in the world and people came from many miles around to fill their bottles at a communal tap.

Public bores in Petone were closed due to water contamination earlier this year (File photo).

9 October, 2017

The cost of treating Lower Hutt's contaminated water supply has escalated to $11 million, with a 1.5-kilometre pipeline needed to divert water away from the Waterloo treatment plant.

E-coli had been found in water drawn from the Waiwhetu Aquifer, which goes to the plant, on three occasions since late last year, and an increase in coliform bacteria was also detected.

With an investigation unable to determine the cause of the problem, Greater Wellington Regional Council agreed to continue permanent chlorination and ultra-violet (UV) treatment of the water, at an up-front cost of $4.6m.

However, further investigation has revealed the amount of "misty" water not suitable for UV treatment is higher than first thought, and that water will have to be shifted elsewhere via a pipeline.

Misty water, which is generated by bore pumps when they first start up, appears the same as clear water, but contains particles which can mask potentially harmful organisms during treatment.

Wellington Water, which carried out the investigations, had hoped the water could be diverted to the nearby Opahu stream or stored at the treatment plant until it ran clear, but it underestimated the volume of water it had to shift.

"As the programme of work has progressed, the costs associated with the diversion of the 'pump start-up water' escalated quickly," the report said.

"Multiple approaches to managing the significant volume of water were considered during the design phase.

"However, the only viable option involves the construction of a 1.5km pipeline from the bore field to Te Awa Kairangi/Hutt River."

The Waterloo plant supplies water to up to 240,000 people across Wellington and Lower Hutt, Wellington Water group manager for network, strategy and planning Mark Kinvig said.

Four bore pumps in the Waterloo wellfield, along Knights Rd, are still out of action due to the water they pump being contaminated, and it is hoped they will be operating again in time to meet summer demand.

The first of two UV units needed to return to full operation was installed earlier this month, with the second to begin operating once the pipeline is constructed, hopefully by January.

Of the additional $6.4m required for the pipeline, $4.2m will be taken from the council's planned 2017-18 spending, including $2.7m from a resilience project aimed at ensuring the Wellington region has dual water supplies in an emergency.

The $60m offshore bores project involves exploring potential aquifers off the Miramar peninsula that could serve Wellington in an emergency such as a large earthquake.

The project is an alternative to the proposed $105m cross-harbour pipeline, which would run from the Hutt bore into Wellington city.

The $2.7 to be borrowed had been earmarked to set up a monitoring bore at a potential aquifer site, but that will be pushed back to 2018-19, the report said.

One potential aquifer had already been identified but the water tested contained harmful chemicals which would have been too expensive to treat.

The other $2.2m needed for the pipeline will be debt funded.
Likewise there is talk that these plans that will destroy a natural area in Wellington City have more to do with general problems rather than just the hospital and may only be partially to do with the earthquake.

Judging by the disrespect shown by some friends it seems that some people prefer to take official pronouncements literally.

I have learned to take nothing for granted.

Wellington Regional Hospital faces running out of water in five days if a big earthquake disrupts its supply.

Plans for a new emergency reservoir in Wellington are progressing, despite no decision over whether ratepayers will have to cover its $25 million cost.

Wellington City Council will start public consultation next month over its proposed 35-million-litre reservoir at Prince of Wales Park, which will provide emergency water for Wellington Regional Hospital if the capital is struck by an earthquake.

Iona Pannett, the council's "three waters" portfolio leader, said designs had been completed and a resource consent application would be lodged in November for the long-awaited project.

Talks were continuing with Capital & Coast District Health Board over whether it would help to pay for the project, which was yet to be resolved, she said.

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