Seeing clearly . . . The discoloured water coming out of TimaruÂ’s taps looks to be improving. PHOTO: SHELLEY INON

by Shelley Inon

Timaru’s dirty-looking water may be clearing up.

In the week before Christmas, residents began reporting discoloured water, and the problem persisted throughout the holiday period.

The Timaru District Council assured residents that all water safety tests showed the water was safe to drink as it investigated the issue, and late last week launched a range of measures to address the problem, believed to be caused by algae in the Opihi River supply.

Efforts to reduce the amount of water required to be taken from the algae-affected Opihi included engineering works to increase the level of natural filtration by the riverbed prior to the water reaching the intake; introducing water restrictions; and modifications at the Gleniti Reservoir to allow tanker delivery of water from other district supplies. The first delivery took place on Tuesday.

The council is also testing a membrane filtration plant with a view to adding it as a future treatment option.

Council communication manager Stephen Doran was cautious on Tuesday, but said the colour “seems to be improving”.

Mr Doran said the council wanted to reassure residents the water was meeting every safety check and was meeting drinking safety regulations, and remind people that the “biggest thing” they could do to combat the discolouration issues would be to follow water restrictions.

Drainage and water manager Grant Hall said Timaru city used 21million litres of water a day. The council could take only 17million litres a day from the Pareora intake, so in order to minimise the amount needed from the Opihi intake, water demand had to be reduced.

Timaru is on level 3 water restrictions, which include a ban on the use of sprinklers, and allowing only one hour’s use of a hand-held hose or micro-jet system between 6pm and 8am. No watering of lawns is permitted and commercial users are asked to minimise water usage.

Topping up . . . The first tanker-load of water pulls up to top up the Gleniti Reservoir. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Mr Hall said that should help support the council’s efforts to resolve the discolouration issue, “while ensuring we have enough supply to last through summer”.

“We’re also asking people to take other steps to try and reduce water usage in the short term such as taking shorter showers, checking for leaks, only running the washing machine and dishwasher when they are full, and not waterblasting or cleaning things with the hose.”

The Pareora River water and the rest of the Timaru district’s water supplies are not experiencing the same algal growth problem.

Mr Hall said people wanting an alternative water source could access water from tankers at Domain Ave (outside the Botanic Gardens), Caroline Bay, and Aorangi Park.

“Most council staff live and work in Timaru, so we are all sharing the issue that the community is facing and understand the concerns about how long this is taking to resolve,” he said.

“We’re taking this really seriously and we hope that the community can do their bit to help.”