Darfield’s Third World Water Problem

Some say New Zealand’s water is third world

We are appalled that people in the Darfield area are still suffering from outbreaks of gastro-enteric diseases (potentially deadly E.coli, and Campylobacter) that would mimic those experienced in third world countries.

 The Selwyn District Council needs to “wake up to its responsibility” and address its recurring water issues, a medical officer of health says.

The criticism follows a gastroenteritis outbreak in Darfield that has struck down 128 residents.

By this evening there had been 22 confirmed cases of campylobacter, a bacteria that causes vomiting and diarrhoea.

  E. coli was found in the town’s drinking water supply and a boil-water notice was issued on August 17. It was lifted four days later… more here

Some of the contamination is being blamed on intensified farming. Water, especially the Waimakariri river, became grossly contaminated with animal faeces after heavy rainfall. Inadequate chlorination resulted in water that was not safe to drink. Darfield is the third Selwyn community to be issued with a boil-water notice this year. But it’s not just the Selwyn district that is affected by sub-standard drinking water, other regions have the same problems too.

20% of Kiwis drinking unsafe water

A report compiled in June 2010 revealed that one in five people in New Zealand has unsafe, or unregistered drinking water that has not been classified.

The report, which is bound to promote further ‘NZ is third world‘ criticism, was released by the Ministry of Health after a 2008-2009 review of drinking water showed that quality in New Zealand was deteriorating.

Paul Gorman in the Press commented on the report, saying

About 849,000 people, or 20 per cent of Kiwis, were supplied with  water that either failed to meet bacteriological standards or had not  been classified because sources were unregistered.

That was a rise from 712,000 New Zealanders in the corresponding 2007-08 period.

Unacceptable levels of E. coli were in water supplied to 93,000 people, down from 118,000 the previous year.

However, 247,000 people received water that did not comply  bacteriologically with standards because sampling was too infrequent to  show compliance.

That was up from 194,000 people in the 2007-08 period…more here

But E.coli monitoring of 125 water supplies,   mostly on camping grounds and Marae, had stopped whilst the number of water borne illnesses had doubled over the previous period.

Schools/Early Childhood Centres, Hospitals Have Shocking Results

Shockingly, Only a fifth of schools and early childhood centres have water that is fit to drink – 118 out of the 597 sampled. Some educational establishments had installed UV treatment and filtration to kill bacteria, but higher levels of UV were needed to destroy protozoan parasites and some viruses.

The stats were slightly better for hospitals with around 50% having clean water. Five out of twelve hospitals and health services failed the tests.

The important issues raised by the review are:

  • Overall compliance has fallen by 3% in population terms during 2008/9. Approximately 80% of New Zealanders have bacteriologically-compliant drinking-water and protozoal-compliance was achieved in supplies serving 63% of the population.
  • Of the 68 large supplies (ie. serving 10,000 or more people), four did not achieve bacteriological compliance and 18 did not achieve protozoal compliance in the survey year.
  • Five of the hospital/health services with their own water supplies were bacteriologically non-compliant during 2008/9. Monitoring programmes need to be established for the supplies serving Aotea Health and Great Barrier Community Health. Waiheke Health Trust and Princess Margaret Hospital need to review/implement their corrective action procedures. The cause of the E. coli transgression in the Te Puia Springs Hospital and Village supply needs to be investigated and remedied.
  • The improvement in compliance of school supplies has continued, with 20% of schools complying in 2008/9.
  • Some water suppliers could avoid the need to undertake monitoring for P2 heavy metals by sampling to show the metals arise from the plumbosolvency of the water, and are not present in the water supplied to the consumer. DWAs can advise on the protocol required.
  • Monitoring for E. coli ceased in a further 125 water supplies during the 2008/9 period.
  • During 2008/9, the number of LA-run zones in which bacteriological transgressions were not followed up with adequate corrective action remains high at 32. This needs attention.
  • Bacteriological compliance was lost in 160 zones, including three LA-run zones, between 2007/8 and 2008/9.
  • Zones recorded as compliant but served by one or more treatment plants that did not comply bacteriologically because of excessive E. coli transgressions warrant further investigation.
  • Discrepancies between the results of bacteriological monitoring by the water supplier and bacteriological surveillance by the DWA occurred in only six zones during 2008/9.

Thinking of taking your family to live in the area? We say give it a miss until they get this mess sorted out. If you want to assist in third world development there are other places more deserving of your time.

Other posts that may interest you

Residents want Shannon’s “third world” water drinking water cleaned up : “Residents in Shannon, a small settlement between Palmerston North and Wellington,  are suffering the effects of a drinking water supply contaminated with giardia, cryptosporidium and possibly E. coli (a potentially fatal organism associated with faecal contamination) and other enteric ‘bug’s and they have had enough. They’ve told Horowhenua District Council that they want action, and they want it now… more

For more about water quality in 100% Pure New Zealand click here.

3 thoughts on “Darfield’s Third World Water Problem

  1. I don’t know that these two infestations are ‘third world’ . I checked and it seems all first world countries are at risk and have outbreaks of this disease. Germany had about 9 people die due to E.coli which they tracked back to cucumbers from Spain last may 2011. Spain is not a third world country. I than checked whether these diseases were in all first world countries and they are. They are caught through an animal or bird faeces with the disease getting in to the water supply through rivers etc

    • Firstly these are not “infestations” but contaminated drinking water supplies that have been inadequately chlorinated.

      Secondly, although these pathogens are present all over the world, what separates the best countries from the worst are basics such as well funded public sanitation and potable water supplies.

      Darfield was the largest town in the country to still rely on septic tanks and boulder holes with no reticulated sewerage system, Humphrey said.

      The health board had asked the council to upgrade the region’s water systems as a priority

      Darfield is the third Selwyn community to be issued with a boil-water notice this year.

      Residents on the Malvern Hills rural water scheme were given the same warning in March and rural Glentunnel residents were warned three weeks ago.

      In 2008, the Selwyn township of Springston suffered a gastroenteritis outbreak.

      Davey said a reticulated sewerage system would cost about $10,000 per household.


  2. I know that drinking “roof water” is quite common. I can’t imagine all that ends up coming off of roof runoff being good to ingest. The vision of birds flying over and landing and then hanging out for a while come to mind. And the tanks that the water is stored in. These are all “untested” unless the owner/ocupant wants to know.

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