In October 2007 the Health Act 1956 was amended by the Health (Drinking Water) Amendment Act, which imposes new requirements on drinking-water suppliers in New Zealand. Prior to 2007 the controls on drinking-water suppliers were part of a voluntary regime. Now, under new Part 2A of the Health Act1, compliance with certain drinking-water standards will be compulsory. New Part 2A binds the Crown (with the exception of the New Zealand Defence Force).
The main duties which apply to drinking-water suppliers include:
taking all practicable steps to comply with the (previously voluntary) drinking-water standards (Drinking-Water Standards 2005 (revised
implementing a public health management plan for the relevant drinking-water supply.
There are exemptions to some of the duties, on the grounds of cost and practicality, and according to the type of supplier (i.e. if the supplier is a "large drinking-water supplier" then there are likely to be fewer exemptions).
Who is affected by the new requirements?
The new requirements apply to a "drinking-water supplier", which is a person who supplies drinking water to people in New Zealand or overseas from a drinking-water supply and includes a "bulk supplier", "networked supplier", "water carrier" (as those terms are defined in Part 2A) and a person who operates a designated port or airport.
Depending on the type of drinking-water supply involved, there is a timetable for the relevant supplier to achieve compliance with the requirements of Part 2A. The timetable has a phased commencement giving smaller suppliers longer to plan for implementation and recognising the proportionality of compliance effort to risk (for example, under the standards smaller suppliers have less onerous monitoring requirements). The timeframes are as follows:
|Type of supplier||Population Range||Compliance dates as originally enacted||New compliance dates (by Health (Deferral of General Application of Sections 69S to 69ZC) Order 2009)|
|New Drinking-Water Suppliers||-||1 July 2009||1 July 2012|
|Large Drinking-Water Suppliers||10,001 or more||1 July 2009||1 July 2012|
|Medium Drinking-Water Suppliers||5,001 - 10,000||1 July 2010||1 July 2013|
|Minor Drinking-Water Suppliers||501 - 5,000||1 July 2011||1 July 2014|
|Small Drinking-Water Suppliers||101 - 500||1 July 2012||1 July 2015|
|Neighbourhood Drinking-Water Suppliers||25 - 100||1 July 2013||1 July 2016|
|Rural Agricultural Drinking-Water Suppliers||-||1 July 2013||1 July 2016|
Drinking-water suppliers are required to provide the Ministry of Health with information (including, the supplier's name and address, the nature of the supply, the maximum daily volume and the source of the water) for inclusion in the Register (Register of Community Drinking-Water Suppliers in New Zealand)3. The supplier must keep this information up to date.
There are special registration requirements for drinking-water suppliers who are "water carriers" (such as road, rail or sea tankers).
Duties of drinking-water suppliers
The duties imposed on drinking-water suppliers include:
Take all practical steps to comply with the Drinking-Water Standards.
Prepare and implement a Public Health Risk Management Plan (PHRM Plan).
Protect the source of the drinking water supplied from contamination.
Take reasonable steps to supply wholesome drinking water (which is drinking water that complies with guideline values in the Drinking-Water Standards for avoiding adverse aesthetic effects).
Test new sources of drinking water before supplying drinking water from those sources.
Monitor drinking water supplied for compliance with the Drinking-Water Standards and to detect and assess public health risk.
Keep records to enable a Drinking-Water Assessor to determine compliance with the Health Act, the Drinking-Water Standards, and the supplier's PHRM Plan.
Investigate complaints and if the complaint relates to the wholesomeness of the drinking water, take reasonably practicable remedial action to improve that wholesomeness.
Take remedial action if a breach of the Drinking-Water Standards is detected.
Provide access and reasonable assistance to Drinking-Water Assessors at all reasonable times.
Different or additional duties may be imposed where the drinking-water supplier is a "bulk supplier", "networked supplier", "self-supplier" or "water carrier" (as those terms are defined in Part 2A).
In addition to the duty for the drinking-water supplier to monitor compliance with the Drinking-Water Standards and take any necessary remedial action, there is also a separate enforcement regime. Drinking-Water Assessors and Designated Officers (appointed by the Director-General of Health) have powers to ensure the requirements of Part 2A are complied with. Compliance Orders may also be issued by the Ministry of Health. Drinking-Water Assessors are empowered to:
assess compliance with Drinking-Water Standards and the relevant PHRM Plan, and the Health Act; and
take appropriate steps where there is non-compliance.
Compliance Orders may also be issued by the Ministry of Health.
It is not an offence to fail to comply with the duties to provide wholesome drinking water, or to fail to take reasonably practicable steps to improve the wholesomeness of the drinking water supplied, or to fail to provide information to a territorial authority. A breach of these duties will, however, be enforceable through civil proceedings.
It is an offence to contravene any of the other duties outlined in Part 2A.
The timings for compliance with the new requirements for drinking-water suppliers depend on the type of water supply involved. The previous voluntary regime is being replaced with a number of compulsory requirements.
Drinking-water suppliers involved with new or large drinking water supplies should be aware of the new requirements and be ready to comply with those requirements from 1 July this year. The other types of drinking-water supplier should be familiarising themselves with the new requirements (if they have not already done so) and be scheduling any infrastructure upgrades or the introduction of new processes to enable them to comply with the new requirements by the applicable date in the period commencing 1 July 2013 through to 1 July 2016.
For further information, please contact your usual Bell Gully adviser or:
This publication is necessarily brief and general in nature. You should seek professional advice before taking any action in relation to the matters dealt with in this publication.