Those are the words of the Christchurch City Council’s general manager of city services, David Adamson, who says he fully supports updating legislation around potable water.
In Christchurch about 330,000 people have been supplied with untreated water.
(Left) Attorney General David Parker and Health Minister David Clark on the drinking water quality report released today. 100,000 New Zealanders may be exposed to sub-standard water. / Video by Mark Mitchell
However, that could change after the second stage of the Havelock North inquiry was released yesterday.
It recommends the universal treatment of drinking water.
Adamson said food preparation in businesses such as cafes were very highly regulated, but drinking water was not – “yet both are equally important”.
He said a report the city council received last year showed treating Christchurch’s entire water supply would cost up to $100 million.
He said if the Government decided it wanted all New Zealand drinking water treated urgently, it would have to consider supporting local authorities, businesses and individuals in the process.
“One hundred million dollars would be very difficult for Christchurch to meet in the short term,” Adamson said.
That was largely because of the burden of earthquake recovery costs, he said.
The Havelock North inquiry panel wanted all drinking water treated immediately, until law changes made it compulsory.
It says treatment should include a residual disinfectant in the reticulation.
Canterbury DHB medical officer of health, Dr Alistair Humphrey said “chlorination should be the default position” for treating water in the region.
He said the Christchurch City Council’s focus on investing in reticulation, protecting source water and increasing monitoring “provides at least as good a barrier as simply tossing chlorine into the water”.
Dr Humphrey said an important part of the report was the emphasis on protecting water sources such as catchments.
“I don’t think we have had strong support from our leaders in Wellington on the issue, but I think that is now going to change” he said.