Why saving water is important

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Colourless, odourless and typically taken for granted – water. A necessity of life New Zealanders have always viewed as available in limitless quantities, with few associated costs – water.Water fountaining out of supply

Photo: David Killick


In a country of moderate rainfall, access to cheap, even free, water has always been regarded as an inalienable right. But, world-wide, water is increasingly scarce.

Water is coming under increasing pressure from both man-made and natural processes, in particular, increased urbanisation and consumption, industry, agriculture and the uncertainties of climate change. These factors, combined, are threatening the availability and quality of the world’s waters.  For example, think of:

  • The recent water shortages in Australia,
  • the dustbowls created by the use, and abuse, of the great water systems of China
  • and, closer to home, the drain on Canterbury rivers from competing demands for water rights.

The demand for water will continue to grow. The challenge is how to meet this demand and increase the respect paid by all New Zealanders to this finite resource by increasing the efficiency of its usage.

It is frequently not until a country starts to run short of water that there is any thought given to how better to conserve and protect such a precious resource. At this point it is often difficult to achieve change and it can be at great expense, as New Zealand’s neighbours across the Tasman are discovering.

New Zealand is not yet at this critical stage and stands to gain much if it steps up its efforts to better value, conserve and protect its water resources.

But why, when rainfall provides generous water supplies to most parts of the country, is it really necessary?  Why should New Zealanders start to take their residential water resource more seriously?

Water infrastructure is expensive:

Much of the current water treatment and pipe infrastructure in cities needs upgrading or extending.  To accommodate Auckland’s expanding population, for example, regional water supplier, Watercare, estimates that by 2026 an additional 80,000-100,000m3/day will be required, with further demands in 2043 and 2062; Aucklanders will ultimately foot the bill for the necessary infrastructure investment.

Benefits: Councils (and ratepayers) can save on the capital costs of building further dams, water treatment stations and other infrastructure

Costs of bringing water to a potable standard:

Only 3% of water delivered to homes at a potable standard is actually used for drinking. The rest is employed for domestic purposes like flushing toilets and watering gardens. Providing this surfeit of high-quality water, needlessly, consumes considerable amounts of energy,  adding to the cost of provision and putting unnecessary strain on our ailing the national energy supply.

Benefits: using less water reduces the energy and maintenance costs of water treatment and reticulation.

Wastewater – the byproduct of water use:

More water use results in more wastewater being treated. This is both another cost, through the capital and operations cost of wastewater treatment and an ecological problem to receiving waters if wastewater is insufficiently treated.
Benefits: Councils can save on wastewater management by reducing the water that goes through the system.

Security of water supply:

Extreme weather events are increasingly affecting water supply. Having supply close to demand will reduce that risk.

Water scarcity:

The trend both nationally and internationally is towards scarcer water supplies. This in turn will make New Zealand’s water resources increasingly valuable in the not too distant future, potentially providing a significant economic advantage for the country compared with our major trading partners. However, such an advantage is unlikely to manifest itself if the present types of management and supply systems remain in place.

Benefits: Reducing demand for reticulated water will bring greater resilience in the face of droughts.  Our supply systems will cope better for longer in the face of  variable climate patterns.   Non-renewable water sources will not be exhausted, for example,  groundwater is generally non-renewable for practical purposes.

Benefits to households:

Householders in metered water areas will save on their water bills by using less water, and run lower risk of water charge hikes to pay for further development.

Householders where water is paid through rates will not face rates rises related to capital works for further water supplies or for water treatment and reticulation.

All householders will save on energy costs by reducing in-house hot water use and with an onsite water supply can be self-sufficient and resilient in times of water shortage and supply disruption.

Did you know dual flush toilets