By Rhea Dasent, Senior Policy Advisor
Do you want chlorine in your farm water supply? Neither does Federated Farmers. But the Government will be requiring compulsory chlorination for some rural water supplies.
Federated Farmers has lodged a strong and comprehensive submission to the new national water services regulator Taumata Arowai on its proposed rules and acceptable solutions for privately-owned rural water supplies.
Make no mistake, if you supply a house other than your own, you will be required to comply with one of the new municipal-style regimes.
The rules followed last year’s passage of the Water Services Act where the Government failed to listen to our plea to exempt small suppliers from the regulatory regime.
Despite being assured by the Minister of Local Government that small suppliers would not be heavily regulated, Taumata Arowai’s proposals will be difficult and costly to comply with and they are not in our view ‘acceptable solutions’.
Federated Farmers was disappointed to see that there wasn’t a genuine pathway to avoid chlorination.
Water suppliers in the “Rural agricultural” category (where the majority of the water goes to farm uses and only 35% or less is used for households) with trickle-feed systems had a Clayton’s choice of taking either the level two Quality Assurance Rule pathway which requires chlorination, or the compliance-heavy Acceptable Solution pathway which required tri-monthly testing for E. Coli and daily testing of turbidity, pH and conductivity.
Chlorination starts a compliance cascade that many rural water suppliers will struggle to cope with: requiring handling and storage of a hazardous substance; having it test water regularly; avoiding events where over-doing occurs, and preventing chlorine getting into food products like milk and fruit.
While Federated Farmers wants everyone to have access to safe drinking water, we fail to see where the problem is that needs this solution. Our survey found 90% of rural water consumers were satisfied with the quality and taste of water supplied to their households, with only 1% not satisfied. Nor are we convinced of the Government’s claim that 34,000 people per year are getting sick from bad water.
Rural agricultural water supplies with secure headworks, pipes and tanks don’t need chlorination to keep drinking water safe, and shouldn’t be forced to chlorinate.