Water was, and is,
a major concern for the people of Auckland. The first European
settlers used Maori water sources, personally collecting this
necessity in barrels, buckets and pots from nearby streams and
Te Ipu Pakore (the
broken calabash), the most important water source for the Maungawhau
Pa, was used last century by the early residents of Mt Eden. The
spring and the stream flowing from it soon became an important
social gathering place for the settlers. Women came to collect
water, and wash clothes, while men used the stream to washed milk
cans and other agricultural processing tools. Today, this spring
is a swampy patch beside the railway line at the end of Water
Wai Ariki (Chiefly
Spring) was the water source for a Pa before it became an important
place for visiting ships to fill their water barrels. The colonial
military set up Albert Barracks and Fort Britomart close to the
springs and later built the Old Government House. From 1845 to
1960 cordial and mineral water manufacturers bottled the water.
These, and other water
supplies, quickly became too small for the growing city - and
they became badly polluted by tannery works and sewage. A series
of major fires spurred the development of Auckland's 1863 water
development plan. Three years later, the first piped water supply
was in place, bringing water from Domain Springs to the 12,000
people who lived in central Auckland.
The 1872 drought forced
the city planners to bring in another pipeline. The Western Springs
pipeline was the only major water supply for Auckland for more
than 30 years. Then another spurt of development saw the building
of the Waitakere Dam in 1910. By 1929 the Upper Huia Dam was finished
and Auckland City now had 140,000 people.
In 1943, the City came
to within a day of running out of water and work began on the
Lower Nihotupu Dam and developing the Hunua catchments. In 1953,
six kilometers of tunnels and 25 kilometers of pipe funneled water
in from Cosseys Creek in the Hunua Ranges. By 1953, 125 million
litres a day came from the Hunua catchments to provide water for
the 320,000 people living in Auckland. New dams were built in
1965, 1971, 1975 and 1977 as the population of Auckland soared.
With the completion
of ten dams in the Waitakere and the Upper Nihotupu catchment
and the Hunuas, water supply seemed to be adequate. The water
from these dams is pumped or gravity fed to five filter stations.
After treatment, the water is pumped to 36 reservoirs at high
points around Auckland, ready for distribution. The system has
a safe yield of 346 million litres of water a day.
In the late 1980's
the population was again exceeding the water supply. The Auckland
Regional Council began a major water conservation awareness programme.
The more water Aucklanders could save, the longer it would be
before additional water sources needed to be developed. During
the drought of 1995 about a million people in the Auckland area
were within a few days of running out of water. They were able
to divert a disaster by severe water conservation measures. Even
with sound water conservation, however, the growth of the area
demands additional water. At present, the plan is to build a tunnel
to the Waikato River.
Before Auckland's water
arrives at homes and businesses, it is treated in a series of
steps. First, the water is of high quality as it originates in
forested catchment systems essentially free of contamination by
animals, wastewater and agricultural and industrial chemicals.
In the storage lakes, the water is oxygenated to prevent naturally-occurring
elements such as manganese from going into solution and later
precipitating in distribution pipes.
The water goes from
the reservoir to filter stations that remove any coloration from
vegetation or cloudiness after a heavy rainfall using an aluminium
compound to precipitate out organic matter. The cleaned water
is passed through a sand bed to clean it. Finally fluoride is
added for dental health, chlorine is added to kill bacteria, and
lime is added to reduce acidity.
Since the reservoirs
in the mountains, the water flows by gravity to 42 distribution
reservoirs located at high points around the Auckland isthmus.
The status of the reservoirs and pumping stations are monitored
by a central Regional Operations Centre in Onehunga.
There are more than
460 kilometres of mains, conduits and tunnels, with an average
flow of 320 million litres a day. Watercare Services Ltd is responsible
for delivering the water to local councils. Once the water reaches
council distribution points, the councils take over responsibility
for local distribution to homes and businesses.
The more water that
flows into an area, the more water must flow out of it. And since
the vast majority of water is used to dispose of wastes, the effluent
problems of Auckland grew apace of the water supply problems.
The late1800's saw
a major epidemic of typhoid, cholera, and other water-borne diseases
in Auckland. It had the worse health record of any New Zealand
city. Sewage was collected in "nightsoil" containers
and dumped in waterways or street drains. The city undertook a
major sewage drainage system at about the same time piped water
was introduced to the city. The drains, however, discharged the
sewage directly into the waterways and harbours and polluted the
beaches and sea-water baths.
In 1910 the Orakei
Main Sewer and storage tanks took the raw sewage to an outfall
into the Waitemata Harbour at Orakei. The Manukau Harbour received
raw sewage from major sewer lines at Onehunga and Otahuhu in 1910.
Mt Roskill and New Lynn added their wastes to the Manukau Harbour
in the min 1920's.
Although many people
complained about the pollution of the water and shellfish, the
situation continued until 1951 when Bathing Beach Water Quality
Standards were drawn up. By 1954 a project began to connect all
the sewers and trade wastes discharges into a main sewerage system
to service the whole metropolitan area. The Sewage Treatment Plant
was commissioned in 1960. By the early 1970's the plant was overloaded
and had to be redesigned with large "fixed growth reactors."
Odours continued to be a concern of local residents until 1991
when a system was set up to extract and deodorise the foul air.
The plant continued
to pollute Manukau Harbour and the old city sewers frequently
overflowed into Waitemata Harbour. A plan has been drawn up by
WaterCare Services Ltd. to rebuild the wastewater treatment plant
and maintain pollution free effluent conditions by the year 2006.