Wellingtonians are being asked to conserve water from Wednesday as the region moves to level two water restrictions, joining other parts of the country facing water shortages over the warmer months.
The capital’s ageing pipes mean almost half of the water is lost through leaks, a problem that requires not only time, but a lot of money to fix. More than 3000 leaks flow across the wider region, some of them marked by signs or protests from frustrated locals.
“Everywhere, all the time. All in the residential neighbourhoods. We’re from the Hutt Valley and they’re everywhere in the Hutt Valley,” one resident said.
Wellington Water, the organisation responsible for managing the water network, said it was trying to resolve the issue through money from the region’s councils.
It estimated it would need more than $1 billion every year over the next decade in order to upgrade water infrastructure.
Agency spokesperson Charles Barker said workers had to prioritise the largest leaks to be fixed first.
“It’s really frustrating to walk past the same leak every day and wonder why it doesn’t get repaired.
“The reality is there are over 3000 leaks and with our funding available to us, we’ve got to find the big leaks and fix those. We’ve got to find leaks that make a big difference to the water loss.”
Wellington Water said there was currently a 76% chance restrictions would increase further to a total ban on outdoor water use, and urged people to conserve every little bit.
Last month, the Wellington City Council approved an additional $2 million in extra funding for Wellington Water to fix the leaks.
In a statement to 1News, Mayor Tory Whanau said the issue remained a top priority for the council, but it was going to take years to sort out.
Water restrictions are also in place for other parts of the country, including South Wairarapa, Picton and Queenstown.
Water New Zealand, the industry body for water services, said it was the only solution in the face of a drier climate over summers and ageing infrastructure.
The organisation’s chief executive Gillian Blythe said: “If you don’t invest, then it’s just going to get worse.”
She continued: “We’ve got to do that regular maintenance such we are on top of it and we can catch up, because we haven’t done it in the past as much as we should’ve been doing.”