Explainer: Water Services Act 2021

November 15, 2021

Summary

The Water Services Act 2021 (‘Act’) commences 15 November 2021. This Act is part of the Three Waters Reforms. It establishes drinking water standards and regulates all persons and organisations that supply drinking water.

 

Key provisions

Supplier

Previously only large scale water suppliers were captured by health regulations. Under the Act, any person who supplies water to another household or dwelling, which may be used for drinking water, is likely to be caught by the Act. Supply has a broad definition and could include anyone with drinking water infrastructure (e.g. pipes) on their property.

This also means there could be multiple Suppliers along the water chain.

Duties

Suppliers will have significant new duties including:

-       Registering their supply;

-       Complying with drinking water standards, including aesthetic standards;

-       Providing sufficient quantities;

-       Having a drinking water safety plan;

-       Notifying the new authority (Taumata Arowai) and local authorities of any risk or hazard to the water;

-       Maintaining records of supply, compliance and monitoring (that will need to be done via an accredited laboratory);

-       Providing specified information and a complaints process for those consuming the water; and

-       Paying fees and levies as Taumata Arowai requires.

These duties are imposed on a wide range of people, including those working or volunteering for the supplier.

Penalties

There are significant penalties for breaching the Act. For example, a failure to register a drinking water supply can result in a maximum fine of $50,000 for the individual and $200,000 for a body corporate.

Private criminal prosecution is also allowed if Taumata Arowai is not taking a complaint further.

 

Next steps

The Act commences on 15 November 2021 but will fully come into force over the next seven years. Taumata Arowai is required to undertake engagement and consultation on significant regulations including on the water standards themselves. This is expected to happen during 2022.

 

If you are interested in understanding more about what your obligations may be under the Water Services Act or are interested in the consultation process, please contact Brigitte Morten.

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