Watercare delivers 100 per cent Aa-grade water, day in, day out, to Auckland.
As one of our customers, you should rarely need to think about the delivery of our core services and how that delivery actually happens. And that is as it should be. Water appears. Wastewater disappears.
We are proud of this achievement and the effort, judgement and expertise it takes to deliver consistently to this standard.
But there is more to Watercare than that.
We are leading the water utility of a major city – Auckland – at a time when, globally, the use of the planet’s water resource is in question.
While water is not as scarce for us here as it is in other countries, across New Zealand there is now a growing discussion about the use of water for industry and the quality of water in our rural and urban waterways. Water treatment in towns and cities is also under scrutiny following a serious water supply incident in Havelock North. This event was linked to four deaths and thousands of sick people and prompted an in-depth government inquiry into the delivery of water services nationally.
So, questions are being asked about water use and the steps that need to be taken to make improvements for the sake of the environment, our economy and our community.
Public consciousness of the value of water seems to be growing – and with it the material importance to our stakeholders of all that is within Watercare’s remit.
As leaders of the city’s water utility, we know that a global shift towards sustainability (such as that expressed in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals), the legislative and regulatory frameworks we operate within, and the voices of our stakeholders all point to Watercare’s additional, wider responsibility.
Not only must we run a sustainable operation but we must also give you – as a resident of Auckland – meaningful insight into the way we manage your water.
Our intention is that we will achieve just that by incorporating integrated thinking into the way we manage and report on our company.
Here in Auckland, where the population is well served with high-quality water services, the discussion about water is focused on the city’s rapidly-growing population.
Water demand is forecast to outstrip current supply within 10 years, prompting planned additions to our existing water supplies.
In parts of the city, at times of rainfall, the wastewater system is sometimes swamped by stormwater resulting in overflows. These risk impacting homes and businesses, and polluting waterways. Watercare is undertaking its own large-scale works to increase the system’s capacity and effectiveness, as well as working with Auckland Council to support the council’s plans and projects to address its stormwater infrastructure.
As the city grows, we are upgrading and extending our core water and wastewater infrastructure – all while maintaining the thousands of kilometres of pipes, pump stations and plants.
The planning process for these system upgrades is carried out in conjunction with Auckland Council as well as developers who are building new houses and suburbs.
But, as we work through the challenges of growth, we are mindful that Watercare’s business, our services and our decision-making increasingly matter to Aucklanders. It also matters to the public that we run an operation that is environmentally and socially sustainable over the long term.
As a resident of Auckland, you want to be confident that the city’s water systems and processes will not only support our community during your lifetime but will also provide for a long period of time. In addition, you want assurance that we are not compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs and are instead building a water system that will enable our city to flourish for many years to come.
And we could not agree more.
Our infrastructure and funding plans stretch into the future. Indeed, our planning horizon extends out 50 years and beyond. This is due to the long life and strategic nature of our infrastructure assets.
We are legally required to operate at minimum cost and we know that affordability is important for the users of our services. We are able to keep the cost of our services down by operating efficiently. We benchmark our performance against other utilities, both national and international. The most recent results placed Watercare in the top 4 for customer service in New Zealand (Water New Zealand) and fourth amongst 38 water companies surveyed across Australasia for value for money (Water Services Association of Australia). Our focus will continue to be on innovations that will enhance operational efficiency.
A sustainable approach underpins our role as a lifeline services provider, here for the long term. Our commitment to sustainability means listening and responding to our stakeholders. We need to be mindful of the resources we use and recover resources where possible, and protect and enhance the environment affected by our operations, while ensuring we maintain the 100 per cent Aa-grade standard of water delivery.
When it comes to day-to-day transactions, we know our customers want responsive service. This year we have made enormous strides in modernising our systems and building our people capability so that we can deliver on our responsive service promise.
Finally, the water and wastewater system operated by Watercare belongs to all Aucklanders. A sustainable water system – one that supports our community and ecological systems long into the future – is one to which we all contribute.
Like all modern sustainability efforts, we know that each individual’s contribution, however small, makes a difference.
All of us can be mindful of our water use – switch to low-flow shower heads or take shorter showers, fix dripping taps and leaks, irrigate the garden in the early morning or at dusk, and choose drought-resistant garden plants.
We can ensure the stormwater from our roof is not plumbed into the wastewater system. We can stop flushing items that don’t disperse (plastic toys, cloth wipes) or substances that clog the pipes (fats, oil and grease).
These significant actions protect the network and ensure it continues to work effectively for all our benefit. They are an important dimension of the partnership between Watercare and the community we serve.
We have the great privilege of leading the water utility that you and your community rely on.
As you will see in this year’s report, sustainability and durability are practical matters for Watercare. Ultimately, our partnership with you means ‘business sustainability’ to us. We can only succeed if we are delivering to the needs of the Auckland community and contributing to a sustainable, regenerative environment.
Margaret Devlin Raveen Jaduram