Publication of Annual Report on Drinking-water quality

Media release

27 June 2019

The Ministry of Health has published its annual report on drinking-water quality and compliance, highlighting the significance of Government reforms in this important area of human health.

The release of the Annual Report on Drinking-water Quality 2017-18 includes information on individual supplies, providing a better overall picture of water quality and associated risks.

It reinforces key recommendations from the Inquiry which followed the 2016 Havelock North gastro outbreak in which more than 5000 people fell sick.  The Inquiry found widespread systemic failure of drinking-water suppliers.  

With safe drinking-water a Government priority, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry for the Environment and the Department of Internal Affairs have continued to push through improvements, including implementation of the Inquiry’s 51 recommendations. 

Today’s release contains information on drinking-water quality for all registered, networked supplies serving populations of more than 100 people from 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018, covering 3,839,000 people. 

Following a recommendation from the Inquiry, the format has changed to improve clarity and accessibility, with non-compliance highlighted.

Summary highlights

  • The overwhelming majority of New Zealanders served by network supplies receive water that is safe and known to be safe.
  • 97.7% of the report population (3,751,000 people) received drinking-water that achieved the bacteriological Standards during the reporting period, an increase of 1.5% compared with the previous period.
  • 84.7% of the report population (3,250,000 people in 329 supplies) received drinking-water that complied with all the legislative requirements under the Act covered in the report.
  • 99.3% (3,810,000 people in 481 supplies) received drinking-water from a supply with a water safety plan for which implementation has started.

Areas for action

  • Protozoal achievement (monitoring the effectiveness of the treatment used to remove or inactivate cryptosporidium) fell by 8.3%, from 83.1% to 74.8%, due to tightening of requirements for secure bores. A number of large supplies (including Christchurch central serving 255,500 people) lost their secure bore water status during the reporting period.
  • The report highlights continued shortcomings with a number of small supplies. Although these make up a large proportion of the 493 supplies, they cover a relatively small proportion of the 3.8 million people covered by the report. 
  • Note:  not all non-achievements or non-compliances automatically mean risk to public health, as some may reflect technical or administrative non-compliances. 
  • Note: this is a report against the standards in place during the reporting period July 2017 - June 2018. These standards are also under review as part of the response to the Havelock North Inquiry.

“Overall, conclusions from the report are that most New Zealanders receive safe drinking-water,” says the Ministry’s Director of Public Health Dr Caroline McElnay.  “However some people, usually those in rural areas or smaller supplies, can’t always access water of the same standard.  This needs to change. 

“The Ministry has written directly to those suppliers required to have a water safety plan and who’re still failing to comply with the Act.

“We’re committed to the Government’s programme of reform. Work is well underway to continue to drive the improvements we need for drinking-water supply, both in the short and long term.”

The full report is available at: Annual Report on Drinking-water Quality 2017–2018

Other useful links

People who have concerns about their water supply should contact their local water supplier or territorial local authority (TLA). There are further details here: