Taumata Arowai grants first exemptions from drinking water rules

01 February 2024

Taumata Arowai has granted the first residual disinfection exemption for Selwyn District Council’s Rakaia Huts drinking water supply and a general exemption for the Torrent Bay drinking water supply.

For some drinking water suppliers, it may be unreasonable or impractical to comply with the Water Services Act 2021. Suppliers can apply to be exempted from some of the requirements in the Act. This could be for a general exemption (most legislative requirements exempted) or a residual disinfection exemption (requirement to have residual disinfection – i.e. chlorination – in a distribution system exempted).

Head of Regulatory, Steve Taylor, said that since applications had opened in March 2022 the regulator had received 18 exemption applications. Seven of these applications have been finalised, with five declined and two granted. Four applications have been withdrawn and seven are still in progress.

First residual disinfection exemption

“We have been pleased to work with Selwyn District Council to provide clarity on the actions required to make its Rakaia Huts drinking water supply suitable for an exemption” says Taylor. “Now that the exemption has been granted, and the Council has a clear understanding of costs, they are able to decide whether they want to take up this option or continue using residual disinfection to maintain the safety of their water supply.”

The Rakaia Huts drinking water supply serves a community of 331 people.

This was the Selwyn District Council’s second exemption application for this supply. An earlier application in September 2022 had been declined, as the regulator was not satisfied the supply could be operated in a manner that provided safe drinking water without residual disinfection.

“Selwyn District Council took on board the feedback provided in the first exemption decision and made the changes required for a successful second application,” said Mr Taylor.

“This decision gives Selwyn District Council, and others, increased certainty about what’s required to be eligible for a residual disinfection exemption, while ensuring a safe supply of drinking water continues to be provided to their community.”

The Water Services Act 2021 requires drinking water suppliers to ensure the drinking water they provide to their community is safe. This includes a multi-barrier approach to managing risks and for reticulated networks to have residual disinfection. For a supplier to be granted an exemption from a specific requirement like the use of residual disinfection they must provide Taumata Arowai with the confidence that they can adequately manage the risks to public health without residual disinfection. 

General exemption approved for Torrent Bay drinking water supply

Torrent Bay is an isolated community located in the Abel Tasman National Park. It is only accessible by boat or a three-hour bush walk from Marahau. The community is made up of 53 privately owned properties, a campsite, a public toilet, and a boat jetty. The community has no permanent residents.

The community does not have a centralised power supply that (along with the lack of permanent residents in the community) makes the operation of a drinking water treatment plant impractical.

“Torrent Bay Township Committee applied for a general exemption; it is the first general exemption application that we’ve approved” said Mr Taylor.

“The Committee demonstrated that meeting legislative requirements was unreasonable or impractical. And they were able to provide a solution to ensure people in their community consume safe drinking water.”

“This exemption comes with several conditions that must be met. For example, each property must maintain and operate its own filtration and UV end-point treatment system or boil their drinking water, and signage must be displayed advising people to boil water from taps in public spaces,” said Mr Taylor.

All final exemption decisions, and information about the exemption process, can be found here: Exemptions | Taumata Arowai.

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