Growing risk of nitrate contamination in private NZ water supplies

Water New Zealand has released a statement on Thursday alerting New Zealanders to a growing risk of nitrate contamination in private water supplies.

Thousands of people could be at risk from drinking water contaminated by nitrates, the statement said. 

There are thousands of private water bores throughout the country, particularly on farms and on lifestyle blocks - and many are potentially not meeting current Drinking Water Standards, says Water New Zealand President, Kelvin Hill.

In a National Performance Review by Water New Zealand, more than 225,000 people are found to not have a municipal water connection and use private bores or rainwater tanks for their supply.

Hill says the water situation in Christchurch is indicative of the pressure that New Zealand's ground water is under from farming and agricultural activities. However, water quality is being affected nationwide.

"Contamination from nitrates and fertiliser run-off doesn't just affect our rivers and streams, it also has an impact on groundwater for drinking."

The statement notes that private bore water quality is not actively monitored by regional councils, meaning bore owners must regularly test their bore water to ensure that the quality meets Drinking Water Standards.

Water New Zealand recommends all private owners to get their bore water independently tested at least once a year to ensure it's free of bacteria and nitrate contamination.

The presence of nitrates in water supplies could pose a hazard to public health, as recent research has linked nitrate exposure to an increased risk of cancer.

"I would hope that when the Government announces the role and responsibilities of the new drinking water regulator, there will be resourcing to enable better advice and support for private suppliers, Hill says.