Most people know that the drought-prone regions in New Zealand are on the east coasts of the North and South Islands – Gisborne, Hawkes Bay, Wairarapa, Marlborough and Canterbury – while the regions on the west coasts of the two islands get plenty of rain. The reason is simple – the west coast regions take the brunt of of the precipitation-laden clouds that advance across the Tasman Sea, because of the mountain ranges that form the ‘spines’ of the two islands.
What coast is the Kapiti Coast region on? Yep, the west coast of the North Island. And it receives ample rainfall during most of the year, the only exceptions are the months of January through March, sometimes April. So why has the Kapiti Coast District Council made such an issue of water? It decides to furnish every household with a water meter, and accompanies them with signs proclaiming “Our water is precious”. The cost of this exercise was officially stated to to be $8 million, but the real cost has been closer to 10 times that.
The people that have been most affected by the water meters are those who live in Waikanae because of the amounts they use in the summer months to water their gardens – and Waikanae is known for its trees and gardens. Many of its residents are retired and gardening becomes a hobby for them.
Were the water meters simply a prelude to the water supply being sold off, i.e. privatised? It’s quite possible. Water metering the whole Kapiti Coast is all but a fait accompli, but it doesn’t need to be the case – the water meters could simply be taken out of the ground and sold to a region on the east coasts where they would be appropriate.
But that doesn’t mean I support wasteful use of water – quite the contrary, and if it were not for the water meters I would agree with the “Our water is precious” signs. But with the meters the signs are simply an insult.
In 2013 we installed two 800-litre water tanks behind our house quite unobtrusively as shown, with the supply simply being the rainfall from the roof along the spouting. Then we put a pump in one of the tanks to give us a supply pressure from the outlet tap at the bottom that is enough to operate a sprinkler to water the garden or for a water blaster to clean the house. That is all — we still use the town supply for the bathrooms and toilets and for cooking. The all-up cost was about $2,600.
During the summer we also cart, by buckets, used bathwater to the garden. Soap in bathwater won’t hurt plants.