Water abundance but not abundant to use

February 10 2020 by Ulrich Glasner - Chief Engineer | Property & Infra

Water abundance but not abundant to use

While December and last week presented Queenstown with some heavy rain fall events including high lake levels and flooding in parts of the district, the summer finally arrived in January and with that the first water restriction.

Questions have been raised: why restrict water usage when there seems to be plenty of it?

This is how the water supply scheme works:
Measured in 2015 the average water use per household in the district was around 1,150 litre per day which is significantly higher than other councils benchmarked in Aotearoa New Zealand at 688 litres/household/day.

To provide this water to the households, water is pumped from lakes or bore supplies, treated and piped into reservoirs on a hill or other elevated site. From there the water is distributed via gravity through pipes to us users.

So far so good, but why can’t we use as much water as we like?
The reason is that water supply schemes are designed for a calculated demand for each household, commercial and industrial site.

Pumps, pipes and reservoirs are built to service that calculated demand. If the demand exceeds the supply that is when water shortage occurs. This can happen for example because of a pump failure, a major leak, someone is filling a pool or many people irrigating their garden at the same time….

Why restrict water use and not increase the supply scheme?
The reason is at peak times some of our supply schemes are operating at their maximum capacity. Increasing the capacity would mean upgrading reservoirs, pipes and pump stations. This would have to be funded by the ratepayer which raises the question of affordability, necessity and environmental responsibility.

Now how can we conserve water?
Conserving water starts with using water wisely. This can mean at the time of high demand, mainly throughout the summer months, irrigate with a hand-held device, use a timer and irrigate at night between midnight and 6.00am, use dishwashers and washing machines only when having a full load, thinking about shower habits (could five minutes be enough?), fixing leaks on your private supply, reporting leaks if you see water is pouring out of the ground on roads or other public places….

All opportunities to care for our water supply.

Another question that arises is: how do I even know how much water I use?
An answer to that is water metering. This shows users exactly how much water they consume and how well their water consumption management works.

On a final note, water is one of the life-giving elements on this planet.

Water is precious.

Caring for our water sources and how we make use of it, is caring for life which, I feel is a privilege.

Ulrich Glasner - Chief Engineer | Property & Infrastructure
Queenstown Lakes District Council

- Ulrich Glasner - Chief Engineer | Property & Infra
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