Leak detectors being installed to save water in Horowhenua

Published on March 11, 2024

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Exciting news, Horowhenua! We're stepping up our water conservation game with new leak detectors.  New leak detectors (more commonly known as water meters) installed across our district will help spot leaks, save water, and cut treatment costs.

The new digital water meters will be installed from March 2024 and all properties in Horowhenua will have the new fixtures by the end of 2025.

Our district is short on water, and we currently lose up to a quarter of our supply through water leaks each year (between 300 to 500 litres [L] per connected property per day) putting unnecessary pressure on our water infrastructure. Water restrictions are not popular, and during the Long Term Plan Amendment 2021/2041 it was decided that water meters will be installed to detect leaks and reduce water wastage to ensure a more reliable water supply for Horowhenua.

Chief Executive Monique Davidson says, “Clean, safe drinking water is something we all enjoy, and something we shouldn’t take for granted.  With the effects of climate change, and strong population growth in Horowhenua, it is important that we ensure we have sufficient water supply for the district.”

“There are many benefits to installing water meters. Going by other districts which have installed similar devices, we can expect up to a 25% drop in usage when meters go in. Not only because we will be able to identify and remedy leaks, but as people become more conscious of their water consumption, they are likely to adopt better water conservation habits. If you can measure it, you can manage it. Together, by making small changes, we can make a massive difference.” 

“Districts with water meters are less likely to need water restrictions,” Monique continues. “Less demand means less water needing to be treated, and in turn, cost savings. We are expecting that once we identify and fix water leaks that it will also have a positive impact on water restrictions. However, it's crucial to note that in parts of our district, water restrictions are governed by consent conditions and river flow levels. While implementing water meters is a proactive step towards managing water demand, they may not singularly alleviate future water restrictions. We're exploring various measures to address water demand and improve our water situation comprehensively. Water meters are also another way we can future-proof our supply as our district continues to grow.”

A 2022 national study undertaken by Building Research Association of New Zealand (BRANZ) in partnership with University of Auckland revealed that when not metered and volumetrically charged, people used on average 304 litres of water per day. When metered and volumetrically charged this number decreased to 198 litres per day – saving more than 100L per day, per person. Collectively, Horowhenua could potentially save around 3,500,000L each day by changing habits and being more mindful of water use.

Water conservation tips

In homes, most water is used for showering, washing clothes and flushing the toilet. Simple habits to conserve water include:

- Turning the tap off when brushing teeth or shaving
- Limiting shower time
- Check your toilet cistern, taps and pipes for leaks or overflow
- Only do full loads in your washing machine or dishwasher
- Consider switching to a water efficient showerhead

 More water saving tips are available on our website horowhenua.govt.nz/WaterSavingTips

Our current analogue water meters

40% of our district’s water connections are metered already – commercial and industrial premises, properties with swimming pools, educational and health facilities, retirement villages, properties with agricultural use, and properties who have had a leak identified previously are most likely to have a meter. All properties in Foxton Beach also have water meters.

These meters are analogue and read quarterly. When a leak is detected, they are reviewed again after three months and it can take nine months to confirm there is a leak and remedy it; meaning a lot of water is lost in the meantime. A leak survey conducted in Levin in 2020 identified 65 private-side leaks which after being remedied resulted in a saving of 350,000L a day.

New digital water meters

We are taking our water meters into the future. The new digital meters continuously monitor for leaks and once detected will raise an alarm when the meter is read. Historically, there were labour costs involved in reading meters. A contractor would go to the site of a meter and read it manually. The new digital meters are read remotely via a radio signal picked up by a reading device mounted on a vehicle driving past. These meters also have the functionality of a data logger which can be switched on when a leak is suspected, which will aid customers and Council in determining the size of the leak and to confirm leak repairs have been successful. The new meters can also detect when connections have been tampered with and if there is reverse (back) flow into the network to prevent contamination. Like the current analogue water meters, their life expectancy is 15 years.

The first properties to receive the new water meters will be Shannon, Foxton and areas of Levin suspected of having high water loss. The meters, in combination with Council’s existing monitoring systems, will detect whether the leaks are in the Council network, or on private property. We will fix leaks found on our Council network, and private property owners will be responsible for fixing the leak on their side of the connection.

“We recognise that most people who have a water leak on their property are completely unaware. The water meters will help identify leaks and Council officers will be able to offer advice and support on how to fix them,” Monique says.

If a leak is found on your property after the new meter is installed, you will need to arrange a fix using a private contractor or plumber.

Water Billing

Water meters are used for rating and recovering the cost of water infrastructure. Currently, water users in Levin, Ōhau, Foxton, Shannon or Tokomaru pay for water services through their rates, which cover the costs of 91,000L of water per quarter per household (approximately 1000L a day). A cubic metre of water (1000 litres) gives you either approximately 4000 glasses of water, 167 toilet flushes, 22 five minute showers, 11 baths, 10 full loads of washing or 1 hour watering with a sprinkler.

As long as you don’t use more than this, you won’t incur any extra water usage charges.

Foxton Beach already has universal metering and are charged at different rates per 1,000 litres depending on how much water is used, according to a three-tier system: first 50,000L; 51,000 to 100,000L; and over 101,000L.

Property owners should not be worried about increased costs, unless an unaddressed leak means a property is using excess water.

There is an amnesty period if a leak is found on your property and has caused you to have used more than your water allocation. You can apply within three months of your water meter being installed for a 100% remission on your excess water usage bill if it’s caused by a leak, upon proof of repair.

Outside of this three month amnesty, you can apply for up to a 50% remission on the excess usage charges incurred because of the leak upon proof of repair. 
We will work with people on a case-by-case basis to help if they are facing hardship.

“Council will consult with the community before any billing changes are considered after the water meter roll out is complete”, Monique says. “Water meters give us the option to share the costs more fairly. If the decision is made to move to a user-pays model in the future, people who use less water will be charged less and will no longer be subsidising high water users.”

Water meter installation

You will be notified of when water meters are being installed through Antenno notifications. Antenno is a free mobile app that sends you alerts and notifications, about places and topics you care about. The app can be downloaded from the App Store or on Google Play; just search ‘Antenno’.

Water meter installers will carry identification cards and there will be only a short disruption to water services as the water meters are installed. To support job seekers in Horowhenua, some of these installers will be recruited through the Mayor’s Taskforce For Jobs (MTFJ), a nationwide partnership between Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) and the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) that focuses on connecting young people with suitable training, employment and mentoring opportunities; and helping remove any barriers to employment or training while providing a platform for job creation.

Editor’s notes

As part of the Long Term Plan Amendment, it was decided an additional $75m be spent in the next decade on three waters infrastructure. The installation of water meters is one of the initiatives being introduced to ensure a resilient water supply in Horowhenua.

Council has also been working towards the most significant and aspirational three waters infrastructure projects in our recent history – the Poads Road Water Supply Reservoir (WSR) which focuses on constructing a large water supply reservoir on Council-owned land between Poads Road and the Ōhau River.


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