24 Sep 2015

Water management not planned for - experts

2:25 pm on 24 September 2015

A team of experts is putting together a policy on how communities will best access water in the event of a major earthquake, because no local authority currently has a formal plan.

Water is a precious resource in the Pacific Islands.

New Zealand councils are being urged to create plans for water management in the aftermath of a major earthquake. Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

Water New Zealand, Opus International Consultants and Canterbury University's Quake Centre said they hoped councils would incorporate the policy into their strategies.

Water New Zealand's chief executive John Pfahlert said most people never thought about the functioning of water pipeline systems until they failed.

He said there was no formal plan in the country to manage water infrastructure after a disaster, except the standard Civil Defence response system - and that was not enough.

"It's not giving any particular thought to specific types of infrastructure and how you might actually approach the management of particular types of infrastructure, so this is a bit of a gap which we're trying to fill here."

Water priority groups, such as for people in rest homes and hospitals, needed to be established, Mr Pfahlert said.

"They need a fairly immediate access to water, perhaps two or three days' worth straight away," he said.

"But for people who are mobile, it might be perfectly acceptable to them to walk with a plastic container to a tanker that sits on a corner, and that might be the situation for several months for some people."

The current replacement value of the water pipeline assets throughout New Zealand is about $45 billion.

Mr Pfahlert said some councils should consider upgrading to more resilient infrastructure in preparation for natural disasters.

"They might advance an infrastructure spend by many years to make sure that, in the event of a disaster, they are better prepared and that the pipes in the ground are not going to get as damaged as those in Christchurch."

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