5 Feb 2024

Miramar leak: Drinking water down drain for almost a month

From Checkpoint, 5:17 pm on 5 February 2024

By Jemima Huston and Pretoria Gordon 

A leak in the Wellington suburb of Miramar has been spurting good drinking water into a drain at the rate of a litre per second for almost a month. 

Wellingtonians are getting increasingly frustrated watching thousands of litres of water be wasted under threats of further water restrictions this summer. 

Residents think the sound of a large leak gushing out of a stone wall in Manuka Street is particularly devastating. 

Catherine Nota filling up buckets from the leaks on Manuka Street.

Catherine Nota filling up buckets from the leaks on Manuka Street. Photo: RNZ / Pretoria Gordon

Catherine Nota has been using buckets to measure how much water is being lost ... and to water her garden. 

"One litre a second, that's what it was coming out at. So that's 60 litres in a minute, times 60 minutes in an hour, times 24 hours. That's 86,400 litres a day." 

Nota said the leak is running 24/7 and only stopped during an outage when Wellington Water worked on a street nearby. 

"So, it was from the water supply, it's not just anything else, it's good clear drinking water I believe."

The leak on Manuka Street is pouring out one litre every second Catherine's buckets are overflowing in less than a minute.

Photo: RNZ / Pretoria Gordon

The leak sprung up on 13 January. Then it was pouring out at a slower rate of one litre every four seconds. 

A resident who did not want to be named reported it on Wellington City Council's "Fix It" app that day. 

"And then I followed up on that Monday the 15th, and then again at the end of the week on the Friday because they said they were going to send someone out to look at it and they never did." 

The Wellington Water website confirms Manuka Street is a "drinking water" job. 

It is logged as medium priority - meaning four-to-ten litres of water per minute is being lost but there is no risk to public safety, loss of pressure, or risk to property.

Motorists using Monorgan Road in Strathmore Park have been driving through large puddles caused by leaks for years, according to locals. 

The water service provider has multiple high priority jobs logged on the road, meaning there is a high flow of water, a risk to safety and a noticeable loss of water pressure.

Water leak next to the Monorgan Road play area.

The leak next to the Monorgan Road play area. Photo: RNZ / Pretoria Gordon

A mum at a park nearby said walking her kids through puddles on the footpath is normal. 

"Most of the time we would see a leak it would get repaired and then two weeks later it would come up somewhere else, if you look at how many patches are on that road."

Jessica Hutchings has a home in Wye Street in Island Bay, where water has been leaking out of a fire hydrant and a water toby for more than a year. 

She said it has brought water into the house and has changed the water pressure. 

"Definitely not as high pressure in the house, absolutely we've had plumbers in to confirm that, trying to work out what we can do to get more pressure through the pipes."

A leak from a fire hydrant on Wye Street.

Photo: RNZ / Pretoria Gordon

Hutchings said the community on Wye Street have got together to report the leak but have been told it is not a priority, despite it being logged as a high priority job. 

"It's distressing because you come out on to the street, and you hear the sound of running water and water's a taonga and it's just being wasted. So, we need to fix it."

Wellington Water's leak prioritisation scale states some leaks can cause a noticeable loss of water pressure. 

The provider has purposefully reduced pressure as part of a pilot project in the suburbs of Brooklyn, Melrose and Johnsonville, with the aim to save water. 

The pilot started in January and if it is found to be successful, pressure reduction will be implemented permanently in those areas.