Local Government Magazine
3 Waters

New report bolsters understanding of water services

Water New Zealand has released its latest National Performance Review (NPR) an annual review of water, wastewater and stormwater services. Participation is voluntarily undertaken by councils looking to progressively improve performance.
This year’s report collates data from 31 participants providing services to over 70 percent of New Zealand’s population, a steady increase in numbers since the report’s inception in 2007-2008. The report is freely available on the projects page of the Water New Zealand website.
The report includes information on assets, financial management, customer service levels and a range of social and environmental performance data. Comparative indicators are provided to assist service managers identify opportunities for improvement, fast-track developments through the learning of others and celebrate areas of good performance.
Trends in data also provide information on the current status of the urban water sector. This complements other information sources such as the LGNZ 3 Waters project, the OAG’s “Water and Roads: Funding and management challenges” report, and the National Infrastructure Unit’s Infrastructure Evidence Base – an updated stock-take of our country’s infrastructure released ahead of the recent National Infrastructure Forum.
The NPR reinforces a number of the findings of the LGNZ and OAG projects. It illustrates that differences across rural and metropolitan sectors are large. On average, rural sector participants are required to service nearly three times the length of pipe to supply a single connection as their metropolitan counterpart. Yet they have on average a quarter of their revenue.
The report also reinforces the funding challenges of 3 Waters infrastructure provision – direct revenue reported by participants was often not covering reported costs. The median revenue reported by participants covered only 94 percent of operational costs, and only 64 percent of total costs.
Residential end-use figures were compared with international benchmarks. The average number of connections with metering is around half of that reported by Pacific Island benchmarking participants where, unsurprisingly, residential end-use is roughly two thirds of that in New Zealand. Again, the research supports the findings of the LGNZ 3 Waters project, showing that incentivising assists in demand management.
Water efficiency opportunities were also evident within participants’ own networks. Nearly half the participants who had undertaken a water loss efficiency assessment using the internationally-recognised infrastructure leakage index had water loss categorised from moderate to very high.
Confidence in data availability was ranked by participants revealing that there are several councils yet to determine their water loss or water loss efficiency. Other measures also required under recently-introduced non-financial performance measures are also yet to be captured.
The report also reveals good news. In general, customer charges are low relative to our neighbours in Australia. The median price of water and wastewater services in urban Australia is NZ$1,280 a year. This is nearly double that paid by NPR participants at NZ$742.
Individual councils also demonstrated best practice results. Waikato District Council, for example, employed tiered pricing to penalise high water use. Wastewater sludge reuse schemes in Taupo, Western Bay of Plenty and Hamilton meant 100 percent of wastewater sludges will be beneficially reused.
Water New Zealand will be running a series of workshops and webinars to help report participants use the information for continuous improvement. An open invitation to attend is also extended to councils interested in participating in next year’s report.

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