Wellingtonians re-routing water leaks to gardens

8:22 pm on 1 February 2024

Some enterprising Wellingtonians living with long-running leaks are re-routing them to water their gardens.

Others say some leaks have been there so long they now have resident populations of ducks.

Meanwhile, a new review has found Wellington Water's lax reporting means the water provider cannot clearly show how it is spending ratepayers' money to fix the pipes.

Zoe Reid is a gardener helping locals put the water pouring out of thousands of leaky pipes around Wellington to good use.

She finds a leak on the road, sets up a dustpan, bucket or a cup in the gutter, then connects a hose and runs it to a nearby garden.

Have you spotted a leak? Send a photo to news@rnz.co.nz with the name of the street and how long the leak has been happening.

"The scoop's going to fill up with water and then it's going to get to the top where the hose is and then the hose is going to make the water travel the whole way to the garden, which is maybe three metres away."

She said as long as the garden was downhill of the leak it was easy and quick to make a system to collect the water.

"This one took me five minutes".

Reid said it was ridiculous how much clean water was being lost to leaks.

A water leak in Karori.

A water leak in Karori. Photo: RNZ / Jemima Huston

But she said leak harvesting was a good way to put that water to use and give your vegetables a drink while restrictions banning sprinklers are in place.

She had seen plenty of people around the city giving it a go.

"It's hard when you're looking at hundreds and hundreds of dollars' worth of plants and you're just watching them die, and then you're watching the sports fields get irrigated and the water coming out of your road".

Last year Wellington City Council agreed to put an extra $2.3 million into its annual budget for the region's water services provider to repair leaks.

But that was conditional on Wellington Water agreeing to part fund a review by international company FieldForce4 of its services.

The report, released today, shows money might be going down the drain with Wellington Water failing to properly report how it has spent to improve the pipe network.

It also found huge delays in responding to people reporting leaks.

A water leak on a road in Kilbirnie.

A water leak on a road in Kilbirnie. Photo: RNZ / Jemima Huston

Katherine from Karori knows that all too well. A leak in her neighbourhood was first reported in October last year and it still had not been seen to.

She said it had been getting bigger and bigger and was sending masses of clear water streaming down a driveway and into a drain.

"It has actually gauged out the asphalt on the driveway in two places. It's made a pool and now ducks have taken up residence in the pool, so there's a nice little couple of ducks swimming around."

It was a terrible waste, she said, but she hoped Wellington Water was doing its best to fix things.

"Let's just hope that they throw a bit more money at the problem and start putting some more fixes in before water restrictions in Wellington are tightened this summer even further."

Sharon Daish lives in Kilbirnie and reported a leak in the middle of her street before Christmas and it still had not been fixed.

She said the leak started after crews had been working on the pipe.

"I thought well maybe they could just check that they turned it off properly when they fixed it, but they haven't done anything about it. The water is just dribbling down the middle of the street every day all day."

Daish said Kilbirnie was notorious for spouting leaks and the community proactively reports them on the council's Fix It app.

"It's obscene, it really is. You just want to get in and fix it yourself. If only I could".

Wellington Water does not accept the findings in the council's review but said it has already made improvements to the way it works.

It maintains that reforming the water sector is the best way to improve services in Wellington.

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