Morrinsville water - what happened

We would like to extend our thanks to all the residents and businesses in Morrinsville who cooperated so wonderfully during last week’s water main break. To Fonterra for allowing access to their bore water; to the cafes who closed on Sunday to allow residents to keep the water flowing; to the large industries who cut back their demand; and especially to the contractors and water tanker drivers who came in on their day off to help us through a sticky patch - thank you. We want to thank our staff and their families who worked long hours to get the water running and keep the community informed. We also wanted to provide an update to ensure everyone knows what happened, and what we’re doing about it.

We have made good progress in commissioning the new Morrinsville Reservoir on Mt Misery. The reservoir is ready to be brought online. This will give us an emergency reserve of treated water for up to 2 days. We have spent the day stabilising the chlorine levels in the reservoir. We believe the reservoir will be online tomorrow (Wednesday 20 December) and we can then move to a Level 3 water restriction. That means instead of a total ban on watering as at present, we will allow the use of hand held hoses on alternate days, and for alternate houses. So even numbered houses on even days, and odd numbered houses on odd days. The use of sprinklers, water blasters and unattended hoses will still be banned.

What we aim to deliver

We always aim to provide continuous water supply to homes and businesses – however, pipes break. It just happens sometimes, and there isn’t anything we can do to prevent it. But when it does happen, we work to restore water as soon as possible.

Our goal is to respond to and resolve water outages within 24 hours, and we report on this each year in our Annual Report. In this case, we responded to the issue within 1 hour, but it took 32 hours to resolve (however, most properties were only without water for around 24 hours).

What you can do

While we try to provide continuous water to every home, we can’t guarantee it. In line with New Zealand Civil Defence, we recommend homes and businesses store enough water (and food) to last for three days or more. Go to happens.nz for more info on emergency planning.

You also need to know where to go for information in an emergency. You can:

What are the current water restrictions?

Water restrictions in Morrinsville are have now reduced to level 2. This means outside watering such as hoses, sprinklers, garden irrigation systems etc can be used on alternate days. Odd street numbers can water on odd days (1st, 3rd, 5th etc), and even street numbers can water on even dates (e.g. 2nd, 4th, 6th etc). These restrictions are now in place due to the prolonged dry weather (rather than problems with the water network). Level 2 restrictions are in place right across the district.

How is our water supply looking now?

Our water supply is in a reasonable position for this time of year. The supply is made up of several components:

  • The dam - this holds our raw water supply. The raw water supply is good, with the dam currently holding 55 days worth of water.
  • The treatment plant - this is located 13kms out of town at the dam, and treats the raw water to meet New Zealand Drinking Water Standards. The treatment plant can produce a maximum of   7700m3 of treated water each day, which is enough to meet MVs usual demand.
  • The reservoir - the reservoir is where treated water is held before being piped in to town. The new reservoir on Mount Misery holds up to two days worth of treated water, which gives us an emergency supply, or meets demand if water use exceeds the 7700m3 that the plant can produce. The break in the main affected the connection between the reservoir (both the old and new ones) and the treatment plant. This meant we had to supply water to Morrinsville directly from the treatment plant, and is why we needed to have restrictions in place following the break (because we could only supply a maximum of 7700m3 per day). The new, 8000m3 reservoir was comissioned this week, meaning the town is being supplied from the reservoir again.
  • The pipe network - this is how water gets from the reservoir to homes and businesses.

The restrictions that are in place now are due to the prolonged dry weather, and the forecast dry summer. Water restrictions are in place in many areas of New Zealand because of this. They are not related to the water main break that interrupted our supply.

What happened?

9/10 December

The Morrinsville water supply started to run low at 1pm on Saturday 9 December. Unfortunately, the system did not notify staff as it should, however, we were onsite within an hour of the break. The leak was in an area that was very difficult to access and repair, and the team worked hard throughout Saturday night and Sunday to reconnect the water.

We also implemented emergency systems to supplement town water supply with water from the Scott Road Bore and Fonterra Bore. Despite this, water ran out to most of town during Saturday night.

Nine water tankers were made available around Morrinsville on Sunday 10 December to provide water for drinking and essential hygiene needs. Schools and pre-schools were advised to close on Monday 11 December, as we were unable to guarantee water supplies would be reconnected.

Water was reconnected by 9pm on Sunday 10 December. We are now reviewing this section of our pipe network and will undertake improvements in the new year.

14 December

The short outage on Thursday 14 Decemberwas caused by a valve closing off as a result of a power cut. This was resolved within 1 hour of Council being notified.

Debrief, investigation and report

An investigation is now underway to identify what caused the leak, and what repairs or improvements are required to our systems. All staff involved in the response to the outage will also participate in a debrief to identify potential improvements.

Managing Morrinsville’s water

We have asset management programmes and plans in place that look at our community’s infrastructure needs over the next 30 years. The following initiatives are all identified in our asset management plans, Infrastructure Strategy and draft Long Term Plan:

Continued maintenance and renewals

We are continuously replacing pipes based on their age and condition. We allocate around $1 million to this work each year not including day to day repairs. We generally replace pipes when they near the end of their lifespan (80-100 years depending on the type of pipe).

We also consider the number of leaks reported, and feedback from staff on the state of pipes during any routine maintenance.

Leak detection

We run a leak detection programme, checking the state of the reticulation network in each town once every three years. Leak detection last took place in Morrinsville in 2016, and is
due to happen again in 2019. We have also identified and budgeted for a Water Loss Strategy in our draft Long Term Plan that will improve this further.

New reservoir

We have recently built a new 8000m3 reservoir on Mt Misery. The new reservoir is currently being commissioned, but couldn’t be used during the water outage because the process control systems weren’t in place then. The new reservoir has a larger capacity to meet New Zealand Drinking Water requirements for emergency storage (e.g. firefighting), however, we still expect that water restrictions will be required during prolonged dry weather.

Additional water main

We have included 400,000 in the 2018/19 budgets for a new ‘ring main’ in Morrinsville. At the moment there are two pipes linking the town and the reservoir – the new ring main will turn this into a circuit, so if there is a break along one part, water can be redirected to continue to supply the town.

New bore supply

We have included $100,000 in the 2018/19 budgets to investigate an additional bore water supply for Morrinsville. It’s unlikely an additional bore would be implemented for around 8-10 years. However, we believe it would help cater for growth in Morrinsville and improve our ability to respond to emergencies.

Improving our monitoring and reporting

We are planning to improve the computer-based control systems to monitor our water use and compliance with our resource consent conditions. These systems will automate more of our processes, helping us identify issues earlier and respond faster.