Critical Causes of Water Storage in New Zealand

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Abstract

The world today has been faced with a severe challenge posed by the natural environment due to various natural and human factors. One of these is acute shortages of water around the globe. New Zealand has been gripped with severe water shortages across the nation during the past decade, due to droughts and prolonged periods of the dry season. As a result, the government had to respond with a series of policy measures and reform initiatives aimed at addressing and resolving the issue on hand. Various Territorial Authorities across the country have responded with a set of policies restricting the water usage for residents, including implementing water meters, water charges, and offering water conservation advice in a bid to raise awareness of the severe implications of the continued unsustainable usage of water by the citizens. This research study aims at critically evaluating the critical causes of water shortage in the country, i.e., the various factors responsible for the same, as well as assessing and analyzing the measures and initiatives on the part of the government to address and resolve it.

To achieve the desired objective, a qualitative study was carried out, which included collecting data on TAs in New Zealand and assessing and evaluating the various measures taken by the respective TAs to address the acute water shortage problems in their regions.

Critical Causes of Water Storage in New Zealand

 Methodology

This chapter contains a brief description of the process used to collect and store the data collected. This includes the procedure followed to design the spreadsheet, collecting and recording the data in the spreadsheets, setting up the final page, and lastly reviewing the data collected and stored.

The Decision Regarding Designing the Spreadsheet

This research report contained valuable information that included statistics (numerical data) as well as textual information such as information about the websites visited for accessing the data on Territorial Authorities in New Zealand and their various policies and approaches concerning water supply in the country. Hence to enable ease of data recording, interpretation, and analysis, the decision to use and design the excel spreadsheet was made. Another crucial task was to ascertain the number of questions to be asked. For this purpose first, a tentative list was prepared and matched against the research objectives. Based on these criteria, a final list of questions was shortlisted. This included a range of information on the country’s water supply, categorized based on territorial authorities (TAs). A total of 70 TAs were shortlisted, and questions such as whether the said TA offer advice on water conservation; whether they have a water meter in place, how much amount of water is supplied to individuals as well as industries; whether the TAs have any plans to implement a water restriction; the existing state of water charge across all TAs, etc., among others. The essential purpose was to ensure that the questions asked helped in answering the broader research objective. The list of questions compiled was extensive and comprehensive and enabled access to crucial information regarding the state of water supply in the country.

Collecting Data and Recording it in a Spreadsheet

The data was entered by typing the collected information in the respective cells in the spreadsheet. Before joining the data in the individual cells, it is crucial to ensure that the entries are correctly determined in the planning stage itself to avoid data overlapping and redundancy. Also, since there are over seventy TAs, the data corresponding to each question and each TA had to be carefully filled in, to ensure that it is being entered in the right field and to avoid errors. To enable accurate data entry in excel, freezing the frames approach was used. This ensured that the headings or key titles were always visible even while scrolling to the last cell. Also, due to the sheer quantity of data collected, it was expected that I would need to type a similar type of information over and over again. To avoid such a tedious process, the drop-down lists were used. This method is useful in case of categories or species that have a repeated text string. Thus by filling just once the Fill option available in the spreadsheet could be used to fill up the rest of the columns or rows. This method does not follow a repeating pattern and is widely used in field experiments or surveys with a vast quantity of data and where the variables are located randomly. Another critical issue while entering and storing data in the spreadsheet is to validate the data collected. I used the data validation tool, which allows the researcher to type a maximum and minimum value. Thus if an amount more than or less than the minimum set is entered, it automatically generates an error message. This method was highly useful in my case because there were too many fields that required similar filling-up values such as the percentage of water supplied to residents by the respective TAs, the amount of water consumed daily per person in each TA, etc.

Setting Up the Final Stage

A separate sheet for each TA was created after creating and filling up all the related information for all TAs. This was done to enable greater flexibility in data comparison and analysis to the researcher. Creating a separate sheet for the TAs enabled the researcher to access the TAs that the researcher wanted to see automatically. Thus by clicking on the page of the desired TA, complete information about the said TA could be easily accessed. This stage also included reviewing the data collected and stored and writing the report in spreadsheets, i.e., noting down whether or not the researcher duly fulfilled the project requirements.

Analysis

The data collected from all the territory authorities across New Zealand, including the regional and local level data, observed that the water charge system is not uniformly adopted across the country. Of the total six territorial authorities in the country, only three of them (Auckland Council, Nelson City Council and Tasman) had a water-charge system. In contrast, the rest of them (Gisborne, Marlborough, and the Chatham Islands) had no existing water-charge system. Although research revealed that some regions in the Gisborne District were likely to introduce a water charge system shortly while the status of plans for organizing such a system in the Marlborough District was currently unknown. Chatham Islands Territory, on the other hand, has no plans to introduce one anytime shortly.

Available statistics suggest that, on average, a regular family in the country uses approximately 250 to 300 litres of water per person daily. Of which the consumption is split in the following manner (Northland Regional Council, 2015):

Critical Causes of Water Storage in New Zealand

The above pie chart indicates that the maximum amount of water is used for Toilet (30 per cent) followed by Bathroom and Kitchen and Laundry activities (25 per cent) and lastly for outdoor use (20 per cent). It is hence imperative to initiate plans that enable individuals to lower their water usage, especially in the categories mentioned above with the most water consumption. Almost 30 per cent of water is used for Toilets. This could be reduced by various means, such as installing dual-flush toilets and by stopping water leaks. Dual-flush toilets automatically restrict water usage and reduce it considerably as compared to the widely use cisterns. The dual-flush showers prevent excessive water usage by limiting the amount of water to the bare minimum. Also, single flush toilets are known to help save water usage by as much as 40 percent.

Water used for bathroom and washing and laundry also accounts for almost 25 per cent of the total water usage per person. This could be reduced by installing water-flow restrictors in showerheads. Estimates indicate that normal /regular showerheads put out 20 liters of water per minute, while 10 liters is sufficient for individuals while showering. Installing water-flow restrictors enables the user to access only as much water as required and prevents excessive wastage. Such restrictors are available in hardware shops (Northland Regional Council, 2015). Given the immense benefits it offers, it is highly recommended as one of the most effective means of saving water in the said activities.

The water consumption plans can be introduced on a national level based on the size and population of each region. Considering the extent of the community and physical landmass of each area, the planning and investment committee can introduce and develop an effective plan to minimize excessive water consumption and, at the same time, offer a continuous supply of drinking water to the citizens. Augmenting water supply is one of the most likely feasible alternatives available at the government’s disposal. The plans to initiate action shall mostly be dependent on how it is currently managed within households, whether they appropriately follow the guidelines regarding water conservation and whether the desired level of reduction in water usage is achieved or not, as well as whether or not the water wastage has been reduced per households or person basis (Heinrich, 2007).

It is also highly imperative to ensure that the government manages the demand for water in the most effective way possible, It entails supplying adequate quantities of water and enabling the consumers to become more aware of the consequences and implications of unsustainable use of this scarce natural resource on the environment and their long term future as well.

Various factors help influence water usage in households, as well as in communities. The government must address these factors to effectively manage the demand and hence consumption of water by individuals concerned. Effective management of water does not mean restricting the use of water or preventing individuals from using it. It only means enabling citizens to be aware of their actions and the significance of water conservation and instil a culture of sustainable water usage across households (WaterCare, 2006).

There are various natural water bodies across the country; however, the same is mostly affected by prolonged periods of drought and dry seasons due to lack of adequate and necessary rainfall. New Zealand has off late experienced droughts and dry seasons across the country, thus reducing water availability in the process. Increased instances of droughts and dry seasons, in turn, compel the authorities to restrict water usage. Hence it is also highly crucial to introduce programs that enable the citizens to play a vital role in water conservation to completely do away with, delay, or reduce the need for water restrictions in the country.

The effectiveness of efficient water management plans introduced by the government depends largely on consumer response and acceptance of the same. Hence it is likely to be a key driver in water conservation efforts initiated by the policymakers. It is also directly dependent on the speed and precision with which the politicians are prepared to develop, introduce, and promote the water conservation policies and increase awareness within communities regarding their role in it. A consumer’s mindset is another key driver of initiating a positive change. Currently, the consumers believe that it is their right to have access to free clean water, and such natural resources must not come with a price tag and that too introduced by the government. However, such a mindset, although true, comes with a certain degree of carelessness toward the resource being offered. The wastage of water is an extension of this very mindset. Hence, policymakers must raise awareness and educate the citizens on the rationing of this valuable natural resource and engage all key stakeholders in developing measures to reduce water wastage locally and at a national level.

Result & Discussion

Water Consumption in TAs With and Without Water Meter:

Water meters are one of the most efficient ways of ensuring adequate water consumption since it enables the individuals to pay only for the quantity of water used rather than a flat charge. In a study carried out in the UK, it was observed that water meters not only help reduce water wastage but also help families with low household incomes and large families manage their water usage, thus enabling the policymakers to manage water demand management as well (King 2006). Previous studies have revealed that the relationship between installing water meters and the level of water consumption per household is complicated (Windgassen, 2006). Families with higher household incomes are likely to be least affected by having to pay more for their water consumption. Instead, other factors such as improved leak detection, reducing consumption of water during peak seasons, and higher cost and enhanced billing system, in turn, could prove to be relatively more helpful in reducing water consumption in households and also in reducing water wastage.

Table 1:Water Consumption in TAs with and without Water Meter

Territorial AuthoritiesTotal avg. daily vol. of water supplied
water meterNo water meter
Matamata94,41,000
South Tatanaki3,43,62,000
Hamilton1,38,24,000
Dunedin2,58,90,000
Whangarei 2,50,00,000
South District2,50,00,000

 

The following graph indicates the water consumption in TAs with and without water meter.

Graph 1:

The above graph indicates the impact of water meters on water consumption levels across TAs. The blue bars represent TAs with a water metering system in place, while the red bars indicate water consumption levels in TAs without a water metering system. It is apparent from the graph that the water consumption level per day per person is relatively higher in TAs without a water metering system.

Water Consumption Per Person Per Day in TAs With and Without Water Charge

Charging the citizens for the amount of water consumed can significantly influence water usage as well as encourage water conservation habits among them. Historical evidence suggests that there is a positive relationship between water conservation and water charge. In a study carried out in San Francisco Bay area, to study the effects of water charge on water usage among the citizens it was observed that charging for water usage particularly during dry seasons helped much in reducing the quantity of water consumed by them and contributed to water conservation (Corral, Fischer, and Hatch, 1999; Rawls et al., 2010).

It is also observed that essential household commodities such as water, electricity, or natural gas are price inelastic. Hence pricing is likely to be an effective deterrent for the citizens to reduce the consumption of such commodities (Dale et al., 2009). However, despite this, the pricing of such products can prove to be helpful in demand management for water, as observed in a study carried out by Olmstead et al. (2003). The study indicated that price elasticity for commodities is generally higher, and demand is lower in households when block prices are introduced as compared to uniform margins or uniform rates for the said commodity (Olmstead, 2007). Hence, to reduce the water consumption levels and encourage the citizens to conserve water, block rates must be introduced.

Table 2: Water consumption in TAs with and without water charge

Water Consumption per person/day 
Water consumption per person /day
Territorial AuthoritiesWater chargeNo water charge
Taupo250
Queenstown700
Opotiki 300
Otorohanga200
Waitake400
Ruapehu250

 

It is apparent from the above table that, out of the total six territorial authorities, three of them have a water charge system in place while three do not have any such system currently. Queenstown has the most water consumption per person limit out of all the six territorial authorities, and it is also the TA with no water charge system in place.

The following graph shows the TAs with water charges and those without them.

Graph 2: Water consumption in TAs with and without water charge

Critical Causes of Water Storage in New Zealand

The blue bars indicate TAs with a water charge system in place while the red bar shows the number of TAs without one. Currently, out of the total six TAs, three of them have a water charge system, while three do not have any such system being implemented now. The above graph indicates that the TAs with no water charge system also has the most water consumption rates per person per day as compared to those with a water charge system.

Water Conservation Advice: Significance and relevance

Water conservation advice contains detailed and comprehensive information about various ways to save water and also other relevant details the daily usage of water per individuals and the actual requirement per person; the multiple ways in which water can be collected in our day to day lives such as in the house, while flushing, in the yard, etc. It also contains detailed information about ways to collect and store rainwater, and further information is made available on request from government websites set up correctly for this purpose.

The provision and availability of specific guidelines regarding ways to conserve water are likely to be highly useful in helping the citizens understand the significance and relevance of the policy and be more encouraging and active concerning the cause. Currently, the government websites set up for all TAs with water conservation advice offer advice on reducing unnecessary wastage of water. For instance the for Tasman which falls under the Nelson City Council region, the Nelson City Council official website offers water conservation tips which include the use of preventing water wastage by fixing leaks or attending to leaky taps; being careful with the hose used for watering plants and tending the garden; using handheld tools for watering plants instead of a tube which consumes more water and leads to unnecessary wastage—using a dripper pipe system to enable sufficient watering. In case of advice related to in house water conservation techniques the conservation advice includes tips to install special water-saving showerheads or flow restrictors; reduce showering time; the type of washing machine to buy (front-loading since it saves almost 50 liters of water per wash); installing a flush saving device to reduce water consumption and wastage in the toilets; covering the swimming pool to prevent evaporation of water and using buckets and brush to wash cars instead of a hose (Nelson.govt.nz., 2015).

Percentage of Water Supplied to TAs With and Without Water Conservation Advice

Table 3: water supplied to residents in TAs with and without water conservation advice

TA with water conservation advice
Percentage of water supply for residents
Territorial AuthoritiesConservation adviceNo conservation advice
Tasman10
North District47
Porirua11.5
Palmerston North20
Ashburton21
Upper Hutt City67

 

The above table indicates the total percentage of water supplied to residents in TAs with and water conservation advice. Of the total, six TAs mentioned in the table, Tasman, Porirua, and Ashburton, have water conservation advice. In contrast, North District, Palmerston North, and Upper Hutt City do not have water conservation advice. Upper Hutt City has the maximum quantity of water supplied to residents at 67 percent, followed by North District at 47 percent, which is significantly higher as compared to Tasman, Porirua, and Ashburton, which have water conservation advice.

Graph 3: Water supplied to residents in TAs with and without water conservation advice

The above graph indicates the percentage of water supplied to TAs with and without water conservation advice. As shown through literature, water conservation advice plays a crucial role in raising awareness of the significance of water conservation among consumers. It instills a culture of sustainable behavior, resulting in positive change in their attitudes. The red bars indicate the percentage of water supplied to TAs without water conservation advice. In contrast, the blue bars indicate the rate of the water provided to TAs with water conservation advice. It is apparent from the graph above that the TAs with water conservation advice such as Tasman, for instance, use less water as compared to TA without water conservation advice such as Palmerston North, where the percentage of water supplied to the residents is drastically high. This further indicates the significance and relevance of introducing water conservation advice across all TAs to continue to raise awareness regarding the criticality of the issue – that of water scarcity experienced by the country, especially during critical times of the year such as the prolonged period of droughts or dry season when it becomes extremely crucial to conserve water.

Water Meter in TA in New Zealand

The chart below indicates the total TAs in New Zealand with a water meter, without a water meter, some with water and unknown. The data collected revealed that 61 percent of the TAs in New Zealand have a water meter system in place; 7 percent do not have a water meter system; 16 percent have some sort of water system in place, while information about 16 percent of the TAs is yet unknown.

Water Restriction in TA in New Zealand

Water restrictions are known to be a highly effective demand-side approach to prevent wastage of water and ensure that it’s used restricted to the bare minimum. Historical evidence suggests that the successful accomplishment of objectives such as water conservation is mainly dependent on consumer attitudes and responses. Lack of community acceptance is hence likely to be a deterrent to the national /governmental objectives (Lam, 2006). Since the demand for valuable natural resources is generally priced inelastic, water restrictions that are imposed on by the government are likely to be met with relatively more positive response as compared to the other means of water conservation such as water charge, water meters, or water conservation advice.

The chart below indicates TAs in New Zealand with water restriction. According to the data collected, 76 percent of the TAs in the country have a water restriction system in place, 8 percent do not have a water restriction system at all, while data on 15 percent of TAs is unknown.

Water Conservation Advice in TA in New Zealand

The chart below indicates the total percentage of TAs in New Zealand with and without water conservation advice. The data collected revealed that 53 percent of the TAs in the country provide water conservation advice on their websites, while 47 percent do not offer any such information.

Water Charge in TA in New Zealand

The following chart indicates statistics on the current status of the water charge system in the country. The data collected revealed that 36 percent of the total TAs in New Zealand currently impose a water charge, 23 percent do not impose any water charge, 10 percent of the TAs have some sort of water charge system. In comparison, data on 31 percent of the TAs is yet unknown.

Critical Causes of Water Storage in New Zealand

Analysis

The data collected from all the territory authorities across New Zealand, including the regional and local level data, observed that the water charge system is not uniformly adopted across the country. Of the total six territorial authorities in the country, only three of them (Auckland Council, Nelson City Council and Tasman) had a water-charge system. In contrast, the rest of them (Gisborne, Marlborough, and the Chatham Islands) had no existing water-charge system. Although research revealed that some regions in the Gisborne District were likely to introduce a water charge system shortly while the status of plans for organizing such a system in the Marlborough District was currently unknown. Chatham Islands Territory, on the other hand, has no plans to introduce one anytime shortly.

Available statistics suggest that, on average, a regular family in the country uses approximately 250 to 300 liters of water per person daily. Of which the consumption is split in the following manner (Northland Regional Council, 2015):

The above pie chart indicates that the maximum amount of water is used for Toilet (30 percent) followed by Bathroom and Kitchen and Laundry activities (25 percent) and lastly for outdoor use (20 percent). It is hence imperative to initiate plans that enable individuals to lower their water usage, especially in the categories mentioned above with the most water consumption.  Almost 30 percent of water is used for Toilets. This could be reduced by various means, such as installing dual-flush toilets and by stopping water leaks. Dual-flush toilets automatically restrict water usage and reduce it considerably as compared to the widely use cisterns. The dual-flush showers prevent excessive water usage by limiting the amount of water to a bare minimum. Also, single flush toilets are known to help save water usage by as much as 40 percent.

Water used for bathroom and washing and laundry also accounts for almost 25 percent of the total water usage per person. This could be reduced by installing water-flow restrictors in showerheads. Estimates indicate that normal /regular showerheads put out 20 liters of water per minute, while 10 liters is sufficient for individuals while showering. Installing water-flow restrictors enables the user to access only as much water as required and prevents excessive wastage. Such restrictors are available in hardware shops (Northland Regional Council, 2015). Given the immense benefits it offers, it is highly recommended as one of the most effective means of saving water in the said activities.

The water consumption plans can be introduced on a national level based on the size and population of each region. Considering the extent of the community and physical landmass of each area, the planning and investment committee can introduce and develop an effective plan to minimize excessive water consumption and, at the same time, offer a continuous supply of drinking water to the citizens. Augmenting water supply is one of the most likely feasible alternatives available at the government’s disposal. The plans to initiate action shall mostly be dependent on how it is currently managed within households, whether they appropriately follow the guidelines regarding water conservation and whether the desired level of reduction in water usage is achieved or not, as well as whether or not the water wastage has been reduced per households or person basis (Heinrich, 2007).

It is also highly imperative to ensure that the government manages the demand for water in the most effective way possible, It entails supplying adequate quantities of water and enabling the consumers to become more aware of the consequences and implications of unsustainable use of this scarce natural resource on the environment and their long term future as well.

Various factors help influence water usage in households, as well as in communities. The government must address these factors to effectively manage the demand and hence consumption of water by individuals concerned. Effective management of water does not mean restricting the use of water or preventing individuals from using it. It only means enabling citizens to be aware of their actions and the significance of water conservation and instill a culture of sustainable water usage across households (WaterCare, 2006).

There are various natural water bodies across the country; however, the same is mostly affected by prolonged periods of drought and dry seasons due to lack of adequate and necessary rainfall. New Zealand has off late experienced droughts and dry seasons across the country, thus reducing the availability of water in the process. Increased instances of droughts and dry seasons, in turn, compel the authorities to restrict water usage. Hence it is also highly crucial to introduce programs that enable the citizens to play a vital role in water conservation to completely do away with, delay, or reduce the need for water restrictions in the country.

The effectiveness of efficient water management plans introduced by the government depends largely on consumer response and acceptance of the same. Hence it is likely to be a key driver in water conservation efforts initiated by the policymakers. It is also directly dependent on the speed and precision with which the politicians are prepared to develop, introduce, and promote the water conservation policies and increase awareness within communities regarding their role in it. Consumers’ mindset is another key driver of initiating a positive change. Currently, the consumers believe that it is their right to have access to free clean water, and such natural resources must not come with a price tag and that too introduced by the government. However, such a mindset, although true, comes with a certain degree of carelessness toward the resource being offered. The wastage of water is an extension of this very mindset. Hence, policymakers must raise awareness and educate the citizens on the rationing of this valuable natural resource and engage all key stakeholders in developing measures to reduce water wastage locally and at a national level.

Conclusion

Water is a valuable and scarce natural resource, and it is fast depleting due to natural and human-made factors. In the face of such adversity, any nation has two alternatives at its disposal – either initiate efforts to conserve the existing water bodies or develop new methods of producing freshwater from new sources. The first method entails such measures as installing water meters, providing water conservation advice, as well as imposing water restrictions. The latter involves substantial scale investment in infrastructure and is highly cost-intensive. New Zealand has opted for the former solution – that of water conservation. This report evaluates the various means by which such efforts are implemented and carried out by each Territorial Authority.

This study’s key objective was to critically evaluate, examine, and analyze the factors responsible for water shortage in New Zealand. In this qualitative research, an in-depth theoretical and observatory research method was adopted whereby comprehensive data on seventy Territorial Authorities in the country were collected, recorded in carefully designed spreadsheets, and analyzed and presented in a graphical format enhanced interpretation of the data. The statistics revealed that water restriction and water conservation advice are not uniformly adopted and implemented by all TAs. The levels of restriction also vary based on the respective status of the regions. To ensure a countrywide and equitable distribution of water and raise awareness among the residents regarding water security, the gravity of the issue and the implications of unsustainable use /wastage of water it is imperative for the administration and the policymakers to ensure that some level of water usage policy must be adopted. Water conservation advice must be provided by all TAs regardless of the severity of the water supply and shortage in the region. This would ensure that the awareness among the citizens is raised to satisfactory levels and initiate a behavior and attitude change among them. Increased awareness is likely to improve water conservation efforts on the part of the government and help build a better, environmentally conscious nation that strives for improved and healthy living in the community. New Zealand’s approach to water policy has been inconsistent over time with the ad-hoc government responses during the 1930s to the relatively more interventionist approach adopted during the 1980s. Such continued inconsistencies in the water management policies have shaped the current state of the country that is now ridden with acute shortages of water in several regions. The current framework, however, takes a more decisive stance, as is evident from the series of positive measures initiated by the government and the decentralized manner in which the same is handled and supervised. The institutional drivers are likely to help the country progress forward and achieve its desired goal.

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Appendix:

Ashburton District Council

Auckland

Buller District

Carterton District

Central Hawke’s Bay District

Chatham Islands

Chatham Islands Territory

Christchurch City

Clutha District

Dunedin City Council

Far North District

Gisborne District

Gore District

Grey District

Hamilton City

Hastings District

Hauraki District

Horowhenua District

Hurunui District

Hutt City

Invercargill City

Kaikoura District

Kaipara District

Kapiti Coast District

Kawerau District

Lower Hutt City

Mackenzie District

Manawatu District

Marlborough District

Masterton District

Matamata-Piako District

Napier City

Nelson City

New Plymouth District

Opotiki District

Otago District

Otorohanga District

Palmerston North City

Porirua City

Queenstown-Lakes District

Rangitikei District

Rotorua Lakes

Rotorua District

Ruapehu District

Selwyn District

South Taranaki District

South Waikato District

South Wairarapa District

Southland District

Stratford District

Tararua District

Tasman District

Taupo District

Tauranga City

Thames-Coromandel District

Timaru District

Upper Hutt City

Waikato District

Waimate District

Waimakariri District

 

Waipa District

Wairoa District

Waitaki District

Waitomo District

Wanganui District

Wellington City

Western Bay of Plenty District

Westland District

Whakatane District

Whangarei District

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