What to know about Water Leaks

What’s the problem with our water usage?
Water use in the Wellington region has risen in recent years, due in part to increasing water loss from ageing pipes.

The South Wairarapa is losing on average about 40 per cent of its water through leaks. These leaks exist on both the public pipe network and on private properties. At relevant times, our water services provider, Wellington Water, runs a campaign to raise public awareness of the issue and to help conserve summer water supplies.

Why do leaks matter?
Leaks increasingly put pressure on our Council’s ability to keep up with the demand for water over the summer months, which can lead to tighter water restrictions for longer periods of time to avoid water shortages.

South Wairarapa is at least at a Level 1 water restriction rating all year round, which means people should only be using sprinklers or irrigation systems every other day, between the hours of 6-8am and 7-9pm. 

Why are our pipes leaking so much now? Why hasn’t something been done sooner?
It’s principally a problem of the age of the pipes. There is a significant backlog of renewals (replacing old pipes) across the district, as investment into replacing pipes has historically not kept pace with pipes nearing or exceeding the end of their operational lives.

Essentially, the water pipes in the region are aging at a faster rate than we can replace them – old pipes burst and leak more often.

What can residents do to help?
In warmer months especially, we ask people to be more aware of their water use. There are a few simple steps you can take to see if you have a leak on your property:

  •  Check all taps, inside and outside the home.
  •  Look behind the dishwasher for any signs of water.
  • In dry weather, look for damp patches in the garden, lawn or driveway and look for any water seeping through cracks in the concrete.
  •  Listen for running water inside your home when no taps, hoses or showers are turned on, and if you have a water meter, check how much you use periodically.

What should residents do when they find a leak on their property?
If you discover or suspect a leak, get in touch with a registered plumber to get it fixed. 

Some residents may not wish to fix leaks on their property if they think Wellington Water and the councils aren’t pulling their weight?
Councils and Wellington Water are working hard to find and fix the most urgent and significant leaks on the public network. The most urgent leaks are those that cause a loss of water supply to customers, have an immediate risk to public safety, and have a high risk of causing damage to property. These leaks jump to the top of the list and are dealt with first.

Many of the urgent leaks we find are underground and are not visible to the public.  

While Wellington Water’s role is to deal with leaks on the public water networks, many leaks are also occurring on private properties, which are the homeowner’s responsibility to fix.

The public can help us out by finding and fixing leaks on their properties.

Why don’t you spend more money and prioritise fixing the leaks?
Wellington Water, on our behalf, has dedicated teams out finding and fixing leaks every day. Recently, it reprioritised its operational activities to find and fix more leaks.

However, there are a lot of leaks out there and due to a tight labour market, we simply can’t fix them all. So, Wellington Water must prioritise where crews go to make the best use of our resources and fix the leaks that have the most impact on water supply.

I know of someone who reported a leak months ago and nothing has happened.
That is a possibility. Wellington Water is focusing on the most significant and urgent leaks according to the priority criteria above. Because many leaks are not easily visible, this inevitably means that small low priority leaks such as a leaking toby will be deferred for attention later, when resources allow.

You can also check the status of leaks that have been reported on the Wellington Water Job Status map which gives updates on jobs being done or nearing the top of the queue.

If you cannot find the issue you’re referring to, please ring the Council and let us know. We will contact Wellington Water. 

Please be patient as the crews are out there every day doing the best they can.  

How does Wellington Water prioritise which leaks to fix?
As mentioned, Wellington Water prioritises leaks according to impact on water supply, if there is an immediate risk to public safety, and if there is a high risk of damage to property.

What is being done to find leaks on the public network?
Wellington Water has an active detection programme underway. They are continually measuring water flows throughout the region via a network of 1,520 water meters.  The meters allow experts to estimate how much water is being wasted by checking water flow rates at night, when normal water usage is relatively low.

Wellington Water’s leak detection teams use these meters and acoustic listening devices to detect leaks, which are then prioritised for fixing according to their criteria.

The prioritisation process may mean that small low priority leaks, such as a leaking toby, will take longer to repair and may stay visible for longer.  

What can we all do to help the situation/conserve water?

  1. Find and fix leaks on your property.
  2. Follow the water restriction level in our area – check the Wellington Water website
  3. Take shorter showers and consider using less water elsewhere; visit www.wellingtonwater.co.nz for more information.   

What about the shortage of plumbers to fix the leak on private properties. What should people do?
Please contact Master Plumbers which will advise you on plumbers in your area.

What if the leak reoccurs after it was fixed? Who pays for that?
If it is on your property, you will be expected to pay for any further repair work. If you have been charged for excess water usage, you can use the plumbers bill as proof that you have fixed the repair and request a waiver from the Council for your excess water use fee. The waiver covers excess water consumption that resulted from the leak.

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