Part 5: Water supply services

Local government: Examples of better practice in setting local authorities' performance measures.

What are the services that the water supply group of activities generally provides?

Because water is a basic survival need, the water supply network needs to be reliable, available, and of high quality, and must meet the needs of domestic, commercial, and industrial consumers. Water supplies should also be managed in a manner that is sustainable for future generations, and does not have adverse effects on the environment.

Local authorities own, provide, and maintain the public water supplies (reticulation and treatment) assets and services. Water supply assets include buildings, land, structures (reservoirs), pipes, and mechanical and electrical equipment. These are managed through asset management and activity maintenance plans.

Water is predominantly sourced from rivers, lakes, and bores. Water for the remainder of the population is sourced from private community schemes, private wells, stockwater, and rainwater tanks.

Local authorities are also responsible for providing water supplies for fire fighting capacity in urban areas. The New Zealand Fire Service Fire Fighting Water Supplies Code of Practice 2009 prescribes the guidelines for water pressure, flow, and volume for fire fighting needs.

What are the typical features of service levels and performance measurement?

Potable water

Local authorities are required to have water supplies that comply with the Health (Drinking Water) Amendment Act 2007 and the Drinking Water Standards New Zealand 2005 (DWSNZ). The purpose of this legislation is to protect public health by improving the quality of drinking water to communities.

Consumers expect to receive quality potable (safe to drink) water. Many local authorities are consulting or have consulted with their communities about adding fluoride to the water supplies to assist in preventing tooth decay. Opponents of fluoride find the idea of consuming that chemical problematic because of its perceived potential health risks.

Contaminants like cryptosporidium and giardia can be found during the extraction, reticulation, and treatment processes. They will negatively influence taste and quality, and can cause sickness.

Local authorities' regular water quality monitoring procedures will detect contaminants and other water quality issues. However, local authorities also rely on the community to report issues.

We found very few performance measures for water quality responsiveness other than satisfaction survey measures. We expected that performance measures such as "issue boil water notices within [x] time of a detected or notified health and safety risk" would be more common. We identified only one such performance measure (see Example 6).

Example 6
Better performance measure for water quality responsiveness

% of urgent requests for service responded to within one day. (Dirty, cloudy, smelly or bad tasting water or no water at all).

Most local authorities had performance measures for water quality and compliance with the DWSNZ. Example 7 shows the better performance measures of compliance with microbiological criteria and quality of the water supply schemes of a local authority.

Example 7
Better performance measures for the quality of water supplies

Compliance with microbiological criteria of DWSNZ: no detectable E-coli in water leaving water treatment plant; and no E-coli in [x]% of the distribution sample.

% compliance with E-coli criteria for priority one bacteriological determinant of DWSNZ. As measured by the number of samples required by the DWSNZ.

Council supplies drinking water that meets the Ministry of Health Aa water quality standards to all customers.

Definitions should be included for criteria used in the performance measure – for example, describing the characteristics of water that is of an "Aa" rating. While supplementary information was sometimes included in the activity information to support the performance measures, this was not always the case.

Continuous supply

Economic development prospects are enhanced by an affordable and reliable water supply. Other than for human consumption, water is provided for recreation needs (swimming pools), city development (garden and landscaping), and commercial and industrial purposes.

A number of factors can disrupt water supplies. These include but are not limited to water leaks, no water or low pressure, and water restrictions that limit supply. The effect of these issues can be particularly severe on some parts of the community – for example, hospitals and fire fighters. As a consequence, local authorities need to have good systems to plan for emergencies and respond to them.

Local authorities are responsible for providing and maintaining reticulation assets, and treatment plants and equipment. Appropriately skilled local authority staff and/or contractor companies carry out regular inspections and maintenance planned in the asset management and asset maintenance programmes.

Some local authorities acknowledge that there are assets with unknown conditions, especially underground reticulation assets that have been in operation for decades. Asset information and records should improve over time as assets are replaced and/or new reticulation assets are implemented. Local authorities are also taking steps through surveys and modelling to understand their assets as part of better asset management practice. Therefore, newer assets and asset systems, and better understanding of the state of assets, should enable local authorities to provide cost-effective services that meet the community's needs now and in the future.

We saw common performance measures relating to service responses, interruptions to supply, and water pressure. Example 8 shows some better performance measures for water supply issues.

For technical performance measures, we expect there to be accompanying information to explain their meaning.

Example 8
Better performance measures for service responses, interruptions to supply, and water pressure

[x]% of repairs and system failures responded to within 4 hours.

Compliance with the following response times for water reticulation faults and emergencies:
  • [x] hours for emergency
  • Major urban leak – [x] hours
  • Major rural leak – [x] hours
  • Minor leaks – within [x] days.
% of service interruptions responded to within:
  • [x] minutes of major loss of supply creating a situation causing or likely to cause damage to persons or property.
  • [x] minutes for substantial leaks not falling into the first priority.
% of supplies restored to customers affected by an interruption within [x] hours of notification.

Flow rate meets stated levels of service for each customer group. Flow rate is to exceed specified minima, measured by the percentage of properties with greater than the target flow rate at the point of supply, not including interruptions to supply. Minimum flow rates are:
  • Urban [x]L/minute
  • Rural [x]L/minute (on demand)
  • Rural [x]m /day (restricted flow).
Pressure exceeds specified minima for each customer group. This is measured through an annual survey and calculated as a percentage of properties surveyed having greater than the minimum pressure for [x]% of the time at the point of supply. The minimum pressures are:
  • Urban properties: [x]kPa
  • Rural properties: [x]kPa.

Water conservation

The amount of water that enters the public reticulation system and private water supplies is dependent on the weather. As a consequence, in many districts, there is a need to conserve water to ensure a continuous supply. Consumers with their own water storage tanks may need supplements from local authorities if their own supplies run out in dry weather. Other consumers, such as those in the horticultural and agricultural industries, will consume more water than the general residential household. In addition, in times of economic growth and development, the demand for water escalates.

Most local authorities mentioned a need to conserve water through reduced consumption, although water is also lost through leaking pipes. Consumers typically need incentives to conserve water, and also require education on water conservation practices.

Apart from performance measures for repairs to leaking pipes, there were relatively few service performance measures on water conservation. Performance measures such as "consumption reduces by [x]% per annum" is more of an outcome measure, and a local authority does not necessarily have control over performance measures such as "peak water consumption of not more than [x] litres per person per day".

Local authorities should consider developing performance measures to measure the effectiveness of water conservation – for example, the number/percentage participating in water conservation programmes, and participant satisfaction with education programmes.

Fire fighting

Local authority fire fighting equipment typically comprises fire hydrants and other small plant, which needs to be regularly maintained and tested. At a minimum, fire fighting supplies need to comply with the New Zealand Fire Service Fire Fighting Water Supplies Code of Practice 2009. This covers appropriately located pressured connections and water volume from fire hydrants.

Example 9 shows the better performance measures for fire fighting service levels.

Example 9
Better performance measures for fire fighting services

[x]% of compliance with minimum fire fighting pressures at not less than [x] randomly selected fire hydrants tested annually.

The water reticulation system shall be able to provide the following fire fighting flows from hydrants except in [x] and [x] township:
  • Residential zone: [x]L/second
  • Commercial zone: [x]L/second
  • Industrial zone: [x]L/second.
% of residential properties that have a proximity to fire hydrants as required by the New Zealand Fire Service Fire Fighting Water Supplies Code of Practice (currently two hydrants within a [x]m radius).

We did not identify any performance measures that measured the quantity (volume) of water delivered from fire hydrants, even though it is an essential element required for fire fighting. The water pressure from fire hydrants is dependent on the amount of water available, and it would be a concern if there was limited water to fight fires.

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