House drinking water tank to emphasise the importance of drinking water standards.

Meeting NZ Drinking Water Standards With DX50®

Is your water safe to drink?

Each year an estimated 34,000 people across New Zealand become ill from their water supply. This is because not all water is treated equally.

Vaughn Stringer of Tankman Taranaki has tested and treated many different tank systems over the years, and he knows firsthand how water can be contaminated with all sorts of nasties including protozoa (parasites) and bacteria.

“The worst examples are cold water tanks that sit in a roasting hot roof all day and outside water storage tanks that can encourage multiplying E.coli colonies and other bacteria growth,” he says.

Landlords legally obliged to provide potable drinking water

Vaughn also helps in the rental sector with water quality and healthy home compliance as well as methamphetamine screening. He says legally landlords in New Zealand must provide safe and potable drinking water for their tenants.

“All rentals must have at least one source of potable water which is generally to the kitchen faucet. A rental will not comply with New Zealand’s drinking water standards if the tank water is tested and deemed unsafe,” he says.

Under section 39 of the Health Act 1956, it is illegal to let or sell a house unless there is a supply of potable water.

Yet despite this only 81% of kiwis receive safe drinking water from supplies such as city councils. The rest of us get our water from small and usually rural community supplies and self-supplies such as rainwater tanks, which are considerably less likely to meet protozoal and bacteriological standards. (Source: Environmental Health Intelligence NZ).

Havelock North’s campylobacter outbreak instigates major review

Whether your drinking water is collected from rain, a bore, creeks or springs, registered water service supplies large and small now need comply to new stricter regulations.

These were introduced following Havelock North’s campylobacter outbreak in 2016, which was a major wakeup call for New Zealand. The disaster had casted doubt in our nationwide infrastructure and the ability of council’s and other water suppliers to comprehensively fix it.

The outbreak was caused by contaminated water from bores and made an estimated 5500 residents ill with gastroenteritis, some of whom were left permanently disabled. It also contributed to four deaths, had an economic impact estimated at $21 million, and instigated a major review of the disaster and the drinking water standards.

New Zealand’s increasing risks of infection from tap water

What the inquiry found was a common occurrence of complacency and chronic under-investment in New Zealand’s water service infrastructure and it predicted increasing risks to our tap water.

In the Ministry of Health’s annual report on drinking water quality 2019 – 2020, just 78.6% of the 486 registered networked drinking-water supplies that serve populations of more than 100 people met all standards for drinking-water quality.

The figures are lower for small supplies. Those that serve 501-5000 consumers had just 43.8% compliance to the drinking water standards. Those serving 101-500 consumers had even less at just 31.3% compliance. Smaller supplies serving 100 people or less is unknown but is also likely to be low.

It’s not surprising therefore that each year an estimated 34,000 people in New Zealand get sick from contaminated drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater.

New Zealand’s Three Waters Reform and new Water Services Act

In an effort to improve compliance and ensure safe, reliable, and affordable water supplies the Government published the new Water Services Bill for safe drinking water in August 2021. It recommended the Three Waters Reform and the formation of a new independent water services regulator.

Shortly after, the new Water Services Act 2021 came into effect on 15 November 2021 when Taumata Arowai took over from the Ministry of Health as the new drinking water regulator. Taumata Arowai has since published new regulatory requirements that tell suppliers what they need to do to provide safe drinking water. These include new Drinking Water Quality Assurance Rules, Drinking Water Standards and Aesthetic Values that will all come into effect on 14 November 2022.

Do I need to register as a water supplier?

Possibly. It depends on how many people you supply water to. Also, the Three Waters Reform is not without controversy. Many vocal opponents are calling for it to be scrapped, including the National Party that has pledged to repeal the reform if they come in to power.

If, however, it does proceed, then all unregistered drinking water suppliers who have not previously registered with the Health Ministry must be registered by November 2025 and fully comply with the Water Services Act 2021 by 2028.

There are 75,000 unregulated or unknown suppliers providing water to about 14% of the population and Taumata Arowai wants to find out more about them. All registered water supplies large and small must therefore ensure their systems meet the improved drinking water standards.

Small suppliers are anything from a community water scheme to a farm providing water to several households, a marae, community hall, rural school, and even holiday homes sharing the same water supply. While single self-supplied domestic dwellings are exempt from this regime, remember it is illegal to rent or sell your home if it doesn’t have access to potable water. 

What are the treatment options under the Water Services Act?

To ensure your water is safe to drink and will meet compliance obligations the Water Services Act lists the various acceptable treatment options according to your water source.

If you have a rainwater tank system, for example, it may contain bacteria, sometimes protozoa (generally at low levels) and particulate matter. Treatment options include chlorination (inactivate the bacteria), cartridge filtration (to remove the protozoa), and chlorine dioxide (such as DX50), ozone, or UV treatment which can inactivate both the bacteria and the protozoa.

For registered drinking water suppliers Taumata Arowai proposes three Acceptable Solutions for the varying water sources – roof, spring & bore water, and rural agriculture. The solutions provide suppliers with a ready-made option to meet their compliance obligations under the Water Services Act.

DX50 Chlorine Dioxide - a proven, affordable water treatment solution

Ensuring access to clean and safe drinking water is not only good for you and your family, but also for others too including visitors, tenants, and BnB guests.

No-one wants to get sick from drinking contaminated water. If left untreated the debris collected in tanks will host unwanted pathogens such as campylobacter, cryptosporidium, salmonella, E-coli & giardiasis (giardia). So, it pays to keep your water tanks clean and well maintained with an approved water treatment solution. 

One of the safest and most cost-effective disinfection solutions is chlorine dioxide, which is used and trusted worldwide by local authorities, water regulators, industry, dairy and agriculture to disinfect and sanitise water, surfaces, and food.

Tankman Taranaki recommends DX50

To clean and sanitise rainwater holding tanks for his customers in the Taranaki region, Vaughn Stringer of Tankman Taranaki uses a DX50 Water Tank Treatment solution. DX50 is an MPI approved chlorine dioxide water disinfectant solution that is a safe, reliable, and affordable solution for making water potable, with no chlorine odour or residue.

Vaughn says, “I used to use sodium hypochlorite to treat water tanks, which is basically a chlorine that resides in the tank and is filtered out with a carbon filter. It's what many councils use to treat their town supply water. I stumbled across DX50 when one of my customers mentioned it. He has rainwater tanks and had read research on water treatment options.”

After doing his own research on chloride dioxide, Vaughn says that he ended up deciding on DX50 because it seemed a good product.

He said, “There’s a lot of research evidence that confirms chlorine dioxide is a safe and more effective option for treating drinking water than chlorine, particularly against pathogens, parasites, and viruses. Also, because chlorine dioxide breaks down quickly it has less of an impact on the environment, plus it doesn’t have the odour and taste of chlorine.”

“I also like the fact that, unlike sodium hypochlorite, DX50 Chlorine Dioxide has virtually no residual taste or odour when it's used to treat water. I’ve since recommended it to quite a few customers and supply them with their own five litre containers so they can treat their own tanks.,” says Vaughn.

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