Part 6: Wastewater services

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

What are the services that the wastewater group of activities generally provides?

Local authorities are obliged to provide efficient wastewater collection and disposal systems where public wastewater systems are in place. The wastewater group of activities involves wastewater collection from drains and sewerage pipes, wastewater treatment, and wastewater disposal.

Most domestic wastewater is disposed through reticulated systems (into ocean outfalls), while the remainder is disposed through septic tank systems and soakage through the ground.

Wastewater assets comprise pipe reticulation and fittings, pump stations, manholes, and wastewater treatment plant and equipment. Asset management and asset maintenance plans set out schedules for planned asset replacement, renewals, and maintenance work. Daily operational work is done using a combination of local authorities' own resources, council-controlled organisations, or private companies.

The primary purpose of the wastewater group of activities is to minimise health risks (pollution, disease) from waste and waste by-products, and the secondary purpose is environmental protection.

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

Service requests

As part of managing assets, local authorities should have adequate facilities, equipment, and staff to respond to breakdowns, blockages, shutdowns, overflows, and odours, to prevent and/or minimise health risks to the public.

Assets are monitored and inspected on a cyclical basis, but local authorities also rely on the community to report issues. Example 10 shows the better performance measures for wastewater service requests.

Example 10
Better performance measures for wastewater service requests

[x]% of repairs and system failure responded to and reinstated within [x] hours.

All shutdowns and pipe breakages are repaired within [x] hours of notification.

[x]% of blockages, breaks and overflows are responded to within [x] hours.

[x]% of all repairs are effected within [x] hours.

Percentage of toilet facilities restored to all customers affected by unplanned interruptions within [x] hours of notification or alternative facilities provided.

All affected customers receive at least [x] hours notice of any planned service interruption.

[x]% of the time contractors are on site within [x] hours of notification of a blockage or overflow.

[x]% of the time, wastewater services will be restored within [x] hours.

There were many performance measures for overflow phrased "the number of [or less than x] overflows per year". This type of measure indicates how well local authorities are managing their wastewater scheme(s), as well as the quality of the local authorities' services. Reporting against this performance measure in the annual report would be more informative if local authorities described the number of blockages and/or overflows that occur at the same location over a particular period of time.

Safe discharge of wastewater

Local authorities stated that resource consents deal with safe wastewater treatment and discharge. Therefore, service delivery is measured by the number and type of breaches of resource consent conditions. Wastewater is treated so it can return to the environment as safe liquid waste and because untreated wastewater can cause outbreaks of disease and environmental pollution. Local authorities are responsible for ensuring that liquid waste does not have significant risks to, and effects on, the natural environment.

Local authorities are responsible for monitoring and ensuring resource consent compliance for wastewater quantity, quality, and sampling. Performance measures that refer to consent conditions provide more context and information than those phrased "compliance with resource consent conditions". Examples of consent conditions may include:

  • Discharge of [x] cubic metres of excess wet weather treated wastewater from sewerage plant to land.
  • Discharge contaminants to air including odour and aerosols from an aerated wastewater treatment pond.

Although it would be useful for the performance measures to measure more than one aspect of performance – for example, by including the proposed response to identified issues – the better resource consent performance measures are set out in Example 11.

Example 11
Better performance measures for resource consents

Trade waste discharges comply with the Trade Waste Bylaw 2008 based on a minimum sampling of [x] trade waste per discharge.

Sewerage disposal complies with sanitary standards. [Name of local authority] notices of non-compliance are followed up upon receipt.

Percentage of total flow treated to discharge through outfall for dispersal to receiving water in accordance with resource consent conditions.
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