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Auckland’s long term water resilience on track as Council, Watercare commit to ambitious targets

Published: 22 April 2021

Auckland Council and Watercare have jointly committed to adopting ambitious targets designed to reduce Aucklanders’ use of drinking water by 20 per cent over the next 30 years to create a city more resilient to impacts of drought and climate change.

The move is a significant step forward in the demand management aspect of the council’s water strategy 2021 – 2050, which aims to protect and enhance te mauri o te wai/the life-supporting capacity of water, to create a future of water security for Tāmaki Makaurau.

Councillor Richard Hills, Environment and Climate Change Committee chair, who leads Auckland’s long term water strategy, says: “The council group’s adoption of targets to reduce the use of drinking water signals a step-change in how we value water.

“Residents across Tāmaki Makaurau have shown leadership in water conservation during the recent drought, and it’s important we lock this behaviour in for the long term as we face the ongoing effects of climate change,” says Cr Hills.

Mayor Phil Goff says: “Conserving water and not wasting it becomes more and more important with increased demand from population growth and the increased frequency of droughts caused by climate change.

“As Aucklanders have demonstrated in the last year, we can collectively save tens of millions of litres of water a day without affecting the quality of our life.

“We have done this by taking easy steps ourselves to cut waste, by not using potable water for things like watering our gardens and by reducing water leaks. Businesses have done exceptionally well finding alternative sources for irrigation and for use on construction sites.

“With the use of technology and by utilising new sources of water such as rainwater tanks, we can make big economic and environmental savings. Setting new, lower consumption targets gives us the incentive to do this,” Mayor Goff said.

One of the key principles used to develop the long-term water usage targets was ensuring we didn’t use water pricing as a lever to reduce customer demand. Instead, the aim is to educate people and create a more efficient and smarter system that allows for new technologies over time, and which lead to behaviour change.

Demand management is designed to operate in tandem with infrastructure investment, including securing alternative drinking water sources for the long term. Demand management is also just one aspect of the council’s water strategy 2021 – 2050, which will cover stormwater, wastewater and freshwater networks.

Watercare Deputy Chief Executive Marlon Bridge says: “Auckland will grow and change dramatically over the next 30 years, and right now we have an opportunity to influence new behaviour at the same time as we evolve our infrastructure.

“We have started the rollout of smart meters in Auckland schools and large commercial water users. The extra information has been valuable in allowing these customers to identify leaks and monitor consumption more closely. The targets that we are setting here are challenging but I believe they will inspire the innovation required for change,” Bridge says.

Technology is a key component of the council group’s water demand management strategy, which includes installing smart meters in all homes by 2034, and investing in a smart, efficient network to monitor and keep leakage to no more than 13 per cent.

Other measures include:

  • increasing water efficiency education to change behaviour,
  • requiring new homes to be water efficient
  • requiring new homes with stormwater tanks to be plumbed in for internal and external non-potable use by 2025.

The Auckland Plan 2050 estimates that over the next 30 years the region’s population could grow by another 720,000 people to reach 2.4 million.

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