Timaru Water Discolouration Issue

Timaru Water Supply

In this section

Why is my water discoloured?

We think that the source of the discolouration was an increase in levels of Manganese and algae at our secondary source at the Opihi. This is interacting with our water treatment process to discolour our water supply. Although this is affecting the quality of the water, it still meets drinking water standards so is safe to drink.

Still experiencing water quality issues?

We are asking that you call directly through to our customer services team on 03 687 7200 to notify us. The team will be taking note of any residual pockets where there may be any ongoing discolouration.

Latest News

What can I do about the issue?

The main thing you can do to help is by reducing water usage, this enables us to take less water from the Opihi source causing the discolouration.

Dial pointing to green level one water restrictionLevel 1 Restrictions are in place in Timaru City

  • Daily demands are being closely monitored.
  • There is a requirement to minimise water usage.
  • No watering of lawns is permitted.

For more information about Water Restrictions, visit: https://www.timaru.govt.nz/water-restrictions

What is the Council doing about the Issue

Timaru District Council is currently working on a range of engineering solutions to help with the discolouration issue, and is asking the community to support it by following increased Water Restriction rules.

What we’re doing?

  • We have undertaken river works in the Opihi to increase the level of natural filtration provided by the river. (Completed)
  • We have started supplementing the Opihi with water from our Temuka supply via tanker deliveries to the Gleniti Reservoir site. (COMPLETED)
  • We are installing a test filtration plant for water to pass through prior to treatment to remove.
  • We are undertaking an increased testing regime to assure the community the water continues to meet drinking water standards.
  • We’re asking residents and industry to conserve water use where we can under Level 3 water restrictions.

How do we know it's safe?

We're regularly testing for a number of things, including waterborne bacteria, metal and nutrient contents and have had the algae identified and analyed by specialists.

These tests are conducted on our behalf by Hills Laboratories and Cawthron Institute, IANZ accredited laboratories that test the water according to international best practice standards.

Test results to date are within safe ranges as specified under the Drinking Water Standards. It's worth noting that water colour is not the same as water safety, water can be discoloured and fail to meet our usual quality standards, but still be safe to drink.

Test results can be viewed here

Can I access alternative water?

All our tests are showing that the water is safe and we are continuing to sample to ensure the safety of the water. We completely understand if you do not wish to drink the water. If you bring your own containers you can get free drinking water from water tankers that we’ve made available at the following locations:

  • Domain Avenue (outside the Botanic Gardens. Note: this tanker has been moved from Sir Basil Arthur Park)
  • Caroline Bay (by the playground)
  • Aorangi Park

Any Questions?

I’ve heard that it’s due to clay / iron/ rust in pipes / because of the Downloads water supply upgrade / because of Evans St project works etc.
No - this is incorrect. The discolouration is a result of harmless algae. Unfortunately, as this algae goes through our water treatment process of ozonation and chlorination there is a reaction that is occurring to create discolouration.

How long is this going to take to fix? Why is this taking so long? Why do I need to reduce my water usage?
We wish we could give you an exact answer on this but there are a number of complexities we have to work through. What we do know is that the algae responsible for the discolouration are only in our Opihi source water so we are taking as much water as we can from Pareora instead. We have introduced water restrictions to ask the public to conserve water so we can minimise the amount of water we have to take from Opihi. The less water we have to take from Opihi the less discolouration we should experience.

What about your other water supplies? What if they get this algae too?
This is a localised issue affecting just our Opihi source. Some of our water treatment experts have worked at Council for decades and have never encountered this before – it is an unusual and unprecedented situation. There are no algae concerns regarding our other supplies.

But I’m sick / my animal is sick
Our water tests show that the water is safe. But if you have any concerns about your health, please consult your GP (or veterinarian for animals).

This is impacting my business. What can I do?
A: We recommend that you contact your insurer.

I’m worried about my gas boiler / water filters – what do I do?
We're not expecting that this issue will cause any problems with gas boilers. You may need to change your water filter more frequently while we are dealing with this issue.

My toilet bowl/bath is stained. What can I do?
Normal bathroom cleaning products (e.g. bleach) should do the trick.

What have you added into the water?
We have not added anything into the water. Our treatment process of ozonation and chlorination remains unchanged. We haven't introduced any new chemicals into the water.

Why haven't you upgraded our water supply before now to safeguard us from things like this happening?
We have not experienced this issue before so it is an unprecedented situation. However, we have planned and budgeted for upgrades to the Timaru water supply that are scheduled to take place in 2024/25. When setting our budgets we consult with the community through our Long Term Plan every three years. We have to stagger timing of our capital projects to minimise the financial impact on ratepayers. Our Long Term Plan is re-adjusted annually through our Annual Plan process and we welcome your input into this.

Last updated: 28 Jan 2022