Watercare are feeling the heat

Watercare are feeling the heat.

The type of heat that – at first – is warm. But before you know it, it has quickly turned into a full-blown pants-on-fire experience.

Last week I pointed out that Watercare have only 10% capacity today in their network for approximately 45,000 connections. That’s not only a tiny amount, it’s also a bit of a looming problem.

Simple maths says that if Auckland is growing at 8,000 dwellings a year (plus commercial space) the network capacity is in the kaka.

Turns out Watercare didn’t really like us pointing that out.

Watercare response to Whale Oil article ‘How will Watercare support intensification when their network is stretched already?’

Watercare strongly refutes suggestions by blog Whale Oil that their networks cannot service a growing Auckland.

The statement published on Whale Oil claiming that Watercare has 10 percent capacity remaining in its existing water supply and wastewater network does not reflect the extent of Watercare’s planned investments that will accommodate Auckland growth.

There are currently about 430,000 homes and businesses connected to the Watercare network, which has capacity for approximately 45,000 new homes and businesses to connect today.

Every year Watercare invests hundreds of millions in growth-related projects. This year, the organisation is spending $150 million on projects to cater for a growing population. Next year, Watercare plans to invest $200 million.  

This growing annual investment enables Watercare to continually expand its network capacity to keep ahead of the Auckland’s increasing demand for water and wastewater services.

Over the next 20 years, Watercare will be investing $5 billion dollars into water and wastewater infrastructure across the Auckland region to provide capacity for a further 300,000 connections.   

Watercare projects currently in construction include:

Hunua 4 bulk watermain – $400 million

A 32-kilometre-long pipe running from Redoubt Road to Khyber Pass to cater for population growth and increase the security of water supply to the Auckland region. It is currently under construction and already in service as it progresses through the city. Once complete, it will provide security of supply to 750,000 people and is capable of supplying another 500,000 people – and would be able to  fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool in 15 minutes.

Waikato Water Treatment Plant upgrade – $49 million

Increasing capacity of the Waikato Water Treatment Plant by a further 25 million litres a day to enable it to treat up to 175 million litres a day. The project was brought forward from its planned 2020 start date in response to the increasing likelihood of drought events and is now expected to be completed by 2017. Two subsequent capacity upgrades are planned for 2027 (to treat an additional 50 million litres a day) and in 2035 (to treat an additional 100 million litres a day) to meet growing demand for drinking water.

North Harbour No. 2 watermain – $264 million

A watermain to help to service growth areas in Auckland’s north by bringing treated water from the west to the new Albany Reservoir that was completed in November 2015.

Mangere Wastewater Treatment Plant – $200 million
Currently under way at the Mangere Wastewater Treatment Plant is the construction of an additional Biological Nutrient Removal (BNR) facility to increase treatment capacity by 2018 to serve an additional 250,000 people and ensure continued compliance with consent conditions.

Pukekohe Wastewater Treatment Plant and trunk sewer system – $120 million

Over $120M of investment to meet growth of 30,000 people, to be completed in stages by 2019.

Glendowie branch sewer – $30 million

To meet growth from the Tamaki redevelopment and adjoining land.

I quoted one of Watercare’s own presentations.



But that aside, the fact is the network is more than large interconnector pipes from Hunua to the city or sewerage plant upgrades.

The problem has long been known to exist at local levels. The pipes in the streets are rooted and under capacity too.

I don’t believe that Watercare have any capital expenditure plans to start ripping up streets and replacing old pipes.

Like all those calcified CBD and isthmus pipes that are on reduced pressure. You can feed more water to the storage tank but all the pipes thereafter are drip feeding water throughout the city.

Or the over-capacity sewer in Onehunga that limits connections and makes developers lose their will to live.

What about the small neighbourhood pump stations that need upgrading?

How about the combined sewer pipes in the Western Bays? I recall that Eden Terrace still has issues when it floods and combines with sewer.

Hey and let’s not forget the fact that our city’s below-ground street pipes are under capacity anyhow. And that’s because they were only designed for existing uses, not the added intensification. So when do these get replaced? Because they are mostly at capacity.

Property developers will tell you for free that the big city interconnectors mean very little because the street network is also stuffed.

And Watercare aren’t paying attention to that.

I could bang about time frames as well. In fact, I might just do that tomorrow. The maths ain’t too good so we better make sure they have it ready, installed and useful in time for the intensification. Don’t want to hold them to ransom.

Watercare do have a problem. And it’s this: whether they spend money or not, it’s not enough, in the right places or at the right time. And so they risk log-jamming the city and running out of capacity.

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