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Reefton water supply upgrade

Issues with the safety of Reefton’s water supply were identified a number of years ago, resulting in a programme of work to improve the safety and reliability of the system. It is currently under a precautionary boil water notice.

The Reefton Water Supply Improvements were one of the key projects in Buller District Council’s Draft Annual Plan 2020/21. These improvements include:

  • the realignment and replacement of the rising and falling main (complete)
  • the provision of residual disinfection (chlorination) (scheduled for 2023)
  • securing the integrity of the treated water reservoir (complete).

As a water supplier, it is Council’s responsibility to provide drinking water to the standard expected by the Ministry of Health (MOH). This is achieved by complying with the compliance targets defined in the Drinking Water Standards New Zealand 2018 (DWSNZ). Frequent monitoring and testing of water within the treatment plant and throughout the reticulation is undertaken and reported back to Council’s drinking water regulator, the Te Whatu Ora– Waitaha Canterbury (formerly Canterbury District Health Board), to demonstrate compliance with DWSNZ.

The DWSNZ compliance targets have become increasingly strict in their requirements following the Government inquiry into the Havelock North water contamination incident in 2016. The inquiry produced several key recommendations for public drinking water supplies nationwide. The most notable of these is the recommendation for residual disinfection to be used in all drinking water supplies to protect water against possible recontamination once it has been treated.

Precautionary boil water notice

Reefton is currently on a precautionary Boil Water Notice, which on advice from Te Whatu Ora-Waitaha Canterbury, will not be lifted until the system can demonstrate adequate protection against the recontamination of treated water (i.e that the network is chlorinated).

Council appreciates the understanding and cooperation of the Reefton community during this time.

More information

All the previous water supply upgrade work is now completed. Prior to this work being carried out, Reefton’s water was contained in a roofed reservoir, which was vulnerable to contamination.

This has been replaced by a large, sealed bladder within the existing reservoir cavity. Thus, significantly reducing the risk of contamination.

Work to replace all the old (brittle) PVC underground pipes with higher quality polyethylene (PE) pipes from the reservoir to town is also complete.

In 2020, Council made the decision to chlorinate Reefton’s water supply in order to provide for residual disinfection.

Water is currently drawn from a bore adjacent to the Inangahua River and pumped to the water treatment plant at The Strand where it is pushed through a series of filters, treated by ultraviolet (UV) irradiation and then distributed through the reticulation to consumers.

However, Council has deemed that inadequate for compliance under Drinking Water Standards New Zealand 2018.

The activation of network chlorination will take place by June 2023. In the meantime, Council is consulting with experts on the best way to roll out the chlorination programme. Council will make sure its planning and commissioning phases are methodical and well-informed in the lead up to activation, and then operate the system to best practice standards which means minimum free available chlorine (FAC) levels that still meet compliance. Correct dosing is the key difference between successful and unsuccessful chlorination.

Council is committed to regular community updates and opportunities to discuss how to prepare for chlorination and especially what to expect in the early stages. The aim is to provide good information and advice to reduce the likelihood of water quality issues as much as possible.

Information on the Reefton water supply upgrade project will be posted to this webpage, you can also find information on Facebook.

If you have any questions in regard to this project, please email